When a woman in the middle of a drug-induced psychosis stole his pickup truck with his eight-year-old son in the back seat, Qualicum Beach’s Aaron Johnson had a surprising reaction: compassion.
Johnson, who has had his own struggle with addictions, convinced her by phone to return to the service station where she’d taken the black Dodge Ram 3500. When she got out, he gave her a hug.
It all began when Johnson, 42, drove sons Jesse, 11, and Wyatt, eight, to the local Shell service station Thursday about 3:30 p.m. to buy them Playstation cards as a reward for helping around the house and working in the garden.
He went into the store with Jesse while Wyatt remained in the truck. Johnson estimates they were away from the truck for less than a minute.
As Johnson left the store, he saw Wyatt running toward him and noticed the truck was gone.
“It all happened so fast. She had pulled over in under 100 feet and let him out.”
The truck had not been left idling. It has a keyless ignition and Johnson figures it started because he was close by with his fob.
A man approached him at the service station, saying he knew the woman, who had been in the other man’s vehicle.
Wyatt said the man saw her leave the other vehicle just before she jumped into the truck.
Johnson had left his cellphone in the truck and the woman, who had driven to nearby Errington, used it to call her mother, who was also at the Shell station, where the two had previously arranged to meet.
The mother handed Johnson her phone; he spoke to the woman and thanked her for not hurting his son. Johnson and the mother convinced the woman, who is in her mid-30s, to return to the station. She had been gone about an hour and 15 minutes, Johnson estimates.
A plainclothes police officer followed her to the service station, where a uniformed officer was waiting.
“I was the first person to meet her,” Johnson said. “I just gave her a hug.”
Johnson said he told her: “There’s a solution to this. You don’t have to suffer an addiction.
“She was bawling her eyes out. She was quite distraught. She had been up for days on drugs.”
Rather than see the woman charged, Johnson asked Wyatt what he thought. “Wyatt said he just wants to see her get help.”
Police took the woman to the local hospital and she was released soon afterward, Johnson said.
He said the woman would not have been able to get far without being spotted because the truck is so distinctive — it has been raised so it’s about three metres off the ground.
The woman is now staying with a friend of Johnson’s who is an outreach worker in Parksville. Johnson plans to visit today to see the woman and give her some encouragement and hopes she gets additional treatment.
After dealing with his own addictions and seeing his marriage fall apart, Johnson wants to eventually start a treatment centre in his home, a former yoga retreat with six bedrooms and 61/2 bathrooms on an acreage.
For now, he’s grateful that the woman did the right thing by letting his son out of the truck, then bringing it back.
“Hopefully she does the right thing for herself and her family,” he said.