Salute Our Heroes: Visiting veteran helps stop kidnapping

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 9:29 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Army and Marine Corps veteran Darren Hafford came to Topeka on August 19 with a purpose: do 50 push-ups at the statehouse to raise awareness for veteran suicide.

“It effects all social classes and it’s something that I hope is preventable with counseling,” he said.

He had been completing the set every day for the previous 46 days at other state capitols in the country.

As he was taking some photos of the statehouse, he noticed a woman in distress.

“I could tell something was wrong,” he recounted.

“She said ‘excuse me do you have a phone?’ I said ‘yes’, she said ‘my mom is gone, my car is gone, my purse and my phone are all gone’.”

After the woman got in contact with family, Hafford called the police and started to make some rounds of the statehouse grounds.

He spotted the missing car with the woman’s mother inside and a stranger behind the wheel.

“She started tapping her chest and so I was concerned she was starting to have heart problems or maybe a heart attack,” he recalled.

“So, I started to hold her hand to try to calm her down.”

Hafford approached the car to ask what was wrong.

He said the man, who police later identified as 54-year-old David Baker, then got out and tried to attack him.

“I’m on the phone with 911 still and he started to run because I dodged the lame punch and I’m like ‘I’m going after him’.”

Baker fell down allowing Hafford to catch up and hold him until police arrived.

Hafford met with the victim and her family before heading to his next stop, Oklahoma City.

“The elderly woman is hugging me and it was a really nice moment for such a sad situation on how we all met,” he said.

“The kindness of complete strangers that’s what I’ll remember about Topeka, Kansas and the professionalism of the police department, fire department and EMTs.”

While he was in the right place at the right time to save the woman’s life, Hafford hopes the mission that put him there saves many more.

“I hope those that are hurting whether they’re veterans, first responders, anyone who might be going through a tough time you’re not alone and there’s help out there and people want to help you,” he said.

“The hardest step is recognizing you need help but once the hardest step is done it’s easier from there so please, get the help you need we want you around.”

Hafford’s challenge has since ended but he is still collecting money to donate to various organizations.

Find his GoFundMe fundraiser here.

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