Employees at the Pizza Hut in Avon Park of Highlands County, Florida, received a cryptic order asking for a classic pepperoni pizza, garlic bread, and the unexpected comment: "911 hostage help!"
The order had been sent by a quick-thinking local woman, who had been taken hostage by her knife-wielding boyfriend and used the pizza order as a means to get back her cell phone for a quick call for help to save herself and her children, reports WFLA.
Pizza Hut received the order via its online cell phone app on Monday afternoon; employees took the unusual comment seriously given that the woman was a recognized return customer who was unlikely to pull a prank.
"We've never seen that before," Candy Hamilton, the manager of the establishment, said. "I've been here 28 years and never, never seen nothing like that come through."
After calling in the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, deputies were dispatched to the delivery location listed in the order. There they were met by the woman, Cheryl Treadway, who was carrying a young child in her arms.
She revealed that 26-year-old Ethan Nickerson, her boyfriend, was inside and armed with a knife – her other two children were also still inside.
After Treadway was taken to safety, the officers approached the home and began speaking with Nickerson through the door.
"His first words were, of course, 'I'm not coming out because I know I'm going to jail,'" said Lt. Curtis Ludden. But after around 20 minutes, Ludden succeeded in persuading him to come out and turn himself in, at which point the two children were rescued as well.
Nickerson, who is thought to have been high on the drug Meth during the incident, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a weapon without intent to kill, battery, false imprisonment and obstructing justice in that he didn't allow Treadway to contact the police.
Once the hostage situation was defused, Treadway explained how it all began.
Nickerson had stopped her from going to pick up her children at school, grabbing her and leaving a bruise while seizing her cell phone. He then went with her to get the kids.
Back at home and facing her boyfriend who was threatening her with a knife, Treadway somehow managed to convince him to give her back the phone to order pizza, at which point she sent out the desperate call for help. He grabbed the phone back as soon as the order was placed.
"I don't know if I ever would have thought of it. I mean it's just something that she did so naturally. The boyfriend never knew about it until he saw us coming around the corner," said Ludden of the incident. "It's moments like these in law enforcement that you get to help people actually that makes you feel good."