“Just fight them.”
That is the advice of a Virginia 12-year-old who was hailed a hero after her quick thinking over the weekend saved her and her 7-year-old sister from being carjacked.
Maddie Weiler, of Williamsburg, was on her way to Busch Gardens with her mother, Brandie Weiler, and younger sister, Mollie, when they witnessed a traffic accident a few cars ahead of them, according to WTKR in Norfolk. Brandie Weiler pulled over and got out of their van to call 911 and offer assistance to the crash victims.
That’s when police said that Paul Scott Salsman, 21, of James City County, approached the van, where Maddie and Mollie waited for their mother. Salsman, who James City County police said was responsible for the crash that halted traffic, stuck his hand in through the van window, unlocked the door and got in, WTKR reported.
The Williamsburg Yorktown Daily reported that Salsman was high on crack cocaine and LSD at the time, according to police.
Telling the girls he had somewhere to be, he tried to start the van, police said.
Maddie was ready for him. She immediately began screaming for help and punching Salsman so hard that she broke the growth plate in one of her wrists, her parents said.
“I just went for it,” Maddie told WTKR. “Nothing passed my mind except, ‘He is a psycho and he needs to get out of the car.’”
As Salsman struggled to start the van, Maddie said she remembered a feature of the vehicle that prevents it from being started.
“I put the car in drive, because that is a safety feature on the van, and held it there,” Maddie said.
The preteen’s actions allowed her sister time to escape the van safely. Mollie, who told WTKR that she thought Salsman was going to kidnap her and her sister, praised Maddie’s actions.
“It was amazing, because she has never done that,” Mollie said.
The girls’ parents were also proud of their daughter, who is part of a family of police officers and firefighters. Steve Weiler, a former fire captain and EMT in Virginia Beach, praised Maddie in a Facebook post, in which he wrote that she “had the foresight to throw the vehicle into drive so the fool couldn't start it, and then proceeded to do as she was always instructed if someone tried to kidnap her and hit him with everything she had, while yelling and screaming for attention and telling her little sister to get out of the car.”
“The guy left the car with assistance from ‘Mama Bear’ and the girls are safe,” Weiler wrote. “Maddie now has a broken wrist from the beat down she threw at him and his trying to jam the shifter into park ‘to start the car’ with her arm there, but wounds will heal and our girls are safe.”
Others praised the girl on social media, as well.
Weiler told WTKR that he was surprised to learn that Maddie remembered to shift the car into drive to keep the engine turned off.
“This could have been an Amber Alert, had it not been for her thinking,” Weiler said.
Police said that Salsman tried to steal an additional two vehicles after Maddie thwarted his attempt to take the family’s van, according to the Daily. He was combative with officers at the scene and had a Taser deployed on him twice as he was being taken into custody, according to police.
He is charged with three counts of felony carjacking, felony hit and run and driving under the influence of drugs, the news station reported.