When you’re thrust into a deadly situation, your flight instinct might take over. Just run away, hide, and maybe the whole thing will disappear. But sometimes, the most unlikely people stand their ground.On a family road trip, one heroic 12-year-old girl did just that when faced with a threat that might’ve sent men three times her age running for cover. With more than her own life on the line, however, she took the only action that would give them all a chance…
On Easter weekend of 2017, 12-year-old Maddie Weiler was in the car with her mother, Brandie, and little sister, Mollie, heading to an amusement park in Williamsburg, Virginia.
On the way there, however, the family witnessed a car accident on the side of the road. Brandie pulled over to help— Busch Gardens would have to wait.
Brandie hopped out of the family van and called 9-1-1, while Mollie and Maddie stayed inside. Meanwhile, the driver who caused the accident curiously ran from his car “Dukes of Hazzard-style,” Maddie said.
The driver, 21-year-old Paul Salsman, approached the Weiler’s van. Worldly Brandie knew he had nefarious intentions. She started screaming at him and shouting warnings to her girls.
In seconds, Salsman approached the rolled-down driver’s side window, stuck his hand inside, unlocked the door, and scrambled behind the wheel. No struggle necessary. Maddie and Mollie heard him talking to himself.
“He was saying all these things like, ‘Let’s go’ and ‘I need to get to this place,’” the 12-year-old recalled. Salsman intended to steal the car, flee the scene, and take the girls with him!
Little Mollie panicked. Maddie, on the other hand, kept a cool head. She came from a family of police officers and firefighters, who’d given her advice on what to do if someone ever tried to take her…
Maddie didn’t scream or throw her sister to the wolves. At that moment, she remembered the van had a built-in safety feature: it wouldn’t start if it was in drive.
So Maddie wrenched the car into drive and then turned her attention to the would-be carjacker. Then, Maddie said, “nothing passed my mind except, ‘He is a psycho and he needs to get out of the car.’”
To protect herself, her sister, and the family van, Maddie threw herself at Salsman. She punched him, she elbowed him, she bit him. Bruce Lee would’ve been proud.
While she incapacitated Salsman, 7-year-old Mollie un-belted herself and escaped out a back door. Maddie didn’t notice. She just kept up her attack on the would-be carjacker.
From the street, Brandie watched this scene unfolding in a flash. “Once I saw Mollie out [of the car], I yelled for Maddie to get out,” she said. “She was too busy beating the guy to realize that her sister was out.”
Eventually, Salsman got the message—he was out of luck! He opened the door and fled from the 12-year-old girl. Then, he tried to steal another car.
By the time the police arrived minutes later—thanks to Brandie’s phone call!—Salsman had tried stealing three cars, including their own. All attempts failed…
Police caught Salsman, but they had to taser him twice to get him to give up. They should’ve just called in Maddie to finish the job—she only had to fight him once!
Authorities charged Salsman with three counts of felony carjacking, felony hit and run, and driving under the influence of drugs. Maddie, though, didn’t make it out of the incident unscathed.
The young girl broke a growth plate in her wrist that required a cast to heal. Still, in a statement to police afterward, she clarified how she was able to apprehend a grown man.
An avid horseback rider, Maddie explained, “If I can control a 1,500-pound animal, then I was sure going to try to take care of [Salsman]!” Still, instinct played a huge role in her success…
“I was so hyped up on adrenaline, so I wasn’t really scared,” she told ABC News. “I knew what I needed to do. I was thinking about getting Mollie out and beating this guy up so he couldn’t start the car.”
In the end, Maddie offered advice to any other girls who might find themselves in her position: if someone tries to steal you or hurt a loved one, “just fight them.”
What amazing courage Maddie showed! How many people can keep a cool head in such a deadly scenario?
Share this heroic 12-year-old girl with your friends below!