N.J. Woman Saves Herself from Kidnapping by Mouthing ‘Help Me’ at Bystander During Alleged Robbery

A New Jersey woman thwarted a crime by mouthing "HELP ME" to a stranger as an alleged abductor forced her to withdraw cash from a bank ATM, prompting a call to police, who arrived to halt the incident in progress.

The victim and another man, who were not identified by Clifton police, had been parked and seated in a car about 10:45 p.m. on Friday when a knock on the driver's side window interrupted them, Lt. Robert Bracken tells PEOPLE.

"They were approached by a man unknown to them who identified himself as a police officer," says Bracken.

The man then told the couple they were "breaking the law" by being intimate in a public place.

"He said to the victims, 'Hey, give me a little bit of money and I won't bring you to jail,'" says Bracken.

"With that, he indicated he was armed."

The couple complied. According to a police news release, the suspect — later identified as Travis Mann, 39, of Hewitt, N.J. — ordered the female victim out of the front passenger seat and into the back seat of the couple's vehicle. Mann took her place in the front seat and directed the man to drive to a nearby bank.

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Police allege that Paul Dunlop, 45, of Pompton Lakes, N.J., was working with Mann as an accomplice and followed the vehicle in a second car to the bank, where the male victim withdrew cash from the ATM vestibule.

Next, the female victim stepped up to the ATM planning to withdraw additional cash, when she caught the eye of the stranger who had pulled into the bank's parking lot.

"It was at that time that the female victim was able to mouth the words 'HELP ME,'" according to police.

"Fortunately, officers were available and nearby when the call came in and were able to interrupt the crime in progress," police said in the news release.

Mann and Dunlop were arrested, and each were charged with kidnapping, carjacking and robbery. Mann faces additional charges of impersonating a police officer and criminal coercion.

Attorneys who might speak for the men were not immediately identified.

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