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Avon Park jogger accosted at gunpoint manages to run away, authorities say

Special to Highlands Today
Published:   |   Updated: October 7, 2013 at 01:14 PM

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AVON PARK- A female jogger who was reportedly accosted by a driver at gunpoint near Avon Park's Walmart Friday morning managed to run away to safety and the Highlands County Sheriff's Office is seeking information and warning other joggers to be careful.

At about 6 a.m., the female was jogging near the Wal-Mart parking lot when she noticed a vehicle following her, said a news release.

She continued her run in the area of Shop 16 Road when the vehicle pulled up beside her, and the driver ordered her into the car at gunpoint. She did not comply and instead ran to the Bill Jarrett Ford dealership, at 1305 US 27 N., Avon Park, the news release added.

The vehicle was described as a silver, four-door Nissan Altima. The victim described the driver as a Hispanic male, heavy set, between 20 -24 years of age who spoke with a deep voice. The firearm used was a dark gray or black semi-automatic pistol, authorities add.

Highlands County Sheriff's detectives are requesting the public's assistance in this case.

Anyone with information should contact Detective Nathan Coogan of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office's Criminal Investigations Unit at 863-402-7250, or nwcoogan@highlandssheriff.org.

Anyone with information who wants to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS(8477), or go to www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com

Here are some safety tips the sheriff's office has offered joggers:

Don't use headphones while walking, driving or jogging. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

Avoid walking or running alone - instead go walking or jogging with a friend.

Try to walk or jog in daylight hours.

Always walk in well-lighted areas.

Avoid the use of short cuts. Keep to well-travelled roads and populated areas.

Choose a route where you can keep away from large bushes or doorways where someone could be lurking. Also vary your route from time to time - don't be predictable.

If someone in a vehicle stops and asks you questions, answer from a distance. Do not approach the vehicle or get close enough to be pulled in.

If followed, go immediately to an area with lights and people. If needed, turn around and walk in the opposite direction, your follower will also have to reverse directions.

Never get into a vehicle with someone you don't know.

Keep your cell phone handy at all times. It's your best source of immediate assistance.

Report all suspicious persons and situations to your local law enforcement agency.

The Highlands County Sheriff's Office offers presentations on personal safety for groups and organizations. To schedule a speaker for your group, contact Crime Prevention Specialist Nell Hays at 863-402-7369.

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