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Everyday Hero

Citizen honored for role in helping River Road carjacking victim.

Jim Beckett, a resident of Anne Arundel County, was honored for his role, offering help to the victim of a River Road carjacking.

Beckett was driving on River Road when he saw Marna Plaia of Great Falls, Va. getting up off the ground at the side of the road.

“He was on his way home from work. Rather than saying, ‘That’s not my problem,’ he stopped and said, ‘What can I do to help,’” said Doug Duncan, Montgomery County Executive in presenting the award to Beckett.

Plaia was driving on River Road with her two young children on July 15 when Montgomery County Police say she was pulled from her vehicle by Carl Eugene Jones, 31 of Chesapeake Beach, Md.

Jones had driven a stolen vehicle from Baltimore before stopping at River Road and Clewerwell Drive and getting out, police said.

Jones then flagged down Plaia’s vehicle, a Mercedes SUV, pulled her out and drove off in it with her two children still in the car, police said.

Beckett drove up and stopped to assist Plaia.

Beckett said what others say as heroism was just the responsibility he learned growing up. “My parents pretty much told me , ‘If you’re there, you’ve got to step up,’” Beckett said.

Beckett’s vehicle was very similar to Plaia’s and both were equipped with a “TeleAid” system. He activated his TeleAid and alerted them to the situation. The TeleAid people were then able to track the movements of Plaia’s vehicle.

The TeleAid system includes an “SOS” button on the rear-view mirror, according to Mercedes promotional materials. Pushing the SOS button establishes voice contact with “Protection One,” a provider contracted by Mercedes-Benz, who can dispatch local police or other emergency services. The service provider can then track the precise location of the vehicle.

Police continued the chase from River Road to Baltimore, to the Bay Bridge near Annapolis and back to a spot near the Prince George’s - Anne Arundel County line when Montgomery County Officer Thomas Tippett blocked the Mercedes with his vehicle.

“The particular block he put on this vehicle was a difficult one to do,” said acting Police Chief William O’Toole. “It was almost precision design.”

Jones has been indicted on counts of auto theft, carjacking and abduction, said Police. A trial date has been set for Feb. 4, 2004.

The children were unharmed. “They were pretty happy to get a helicopter ride back to Suburban Hospital,” Tippett said.

Plaia was grateful to everyone who assisted. “We find heroes every day,” she said. “We also find heroes on the side of the road. He didn’t have to stop. He didn’t have to stay. But he did. He’s a very special person.”