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iPhone’s Emergency SOS Feature Foils Sexual Assault Attempt

iPhone’s Emergency SOS Feature Foils Sexual Assault Attempt

An iPhone owner credits her Apple device’s Emergency SOS feature with thwarting a bad guy’s sexual assault attempt in Virginia Beach, VA. She believes the attack could have turned deadly if police had not received her iPhone’s automated alert. The anonymous woman shared information about her ordeal with CBS affiliate WTKR on Monday.

Early Sunday around 2 a.m. the woman was about to get into an Uber to head home when she says, “This guy came up to me and said, ‘I lost my phone… can you help me find my phone?'”

“I wasn’t suspecting he was bad. He was a very normal, nice-looking guy,” she says.

She says the man lured her back to the boardwalk to find a lost phone and she just wanted to help.

“I was like, ‘Where are your friends? Why are you alone?’ He was like, ‘I’m in the military. I’m not from here,’ and my brother is in the military—I felt bad for him.”

The woman says it was a believable story from someone she says didn’t appear threatening.

The unidentified man lead the victim to a secluded area, saying he believed the phone was lost in the sand. When the woman attempted to locate the supposedly missing phone with Apple’s “Find My” app. She became suspicious when the man appeared to have difficulty in navigating the iOS user interface.

“I get my phone back and I turn around and I try to run away and he just comes up from behind me, tackles me, grabs my face, is covering my mouth,” the woman said. “I’m trying to scream for help, [he] tackles me to the ground — is like shoving my face to the ground — and now, because I’ve been screaming, he’s holding my mouth even tighter trying to muffle any noise I’m making.”

Luckily, the woman had Emergency SOS enabled on her iPhone and was able to use it to dial 911 without unlocking her device. She used a long press of both the power button and the volume down button to trigger the 911 call. The feature can also be invoked by pressing the power button five times in rapid succession.

A police dispatcher that heard her pleas for help was able to direct officers to her location.

“They were originally going to look in the hotels and dispatch updated them that I was talking about the water — I’m begging him not to drown, I don’t want to drown — so they knew to come look in the sand,” she said.

The attacker fled on foot when police arrived on the scene, but he was quickly tracked down and arrested.

“I’m so thankful for those police officers. I know they have a thankless job, and I just can’t thank them enough,” the woman said.

Apple’s Emergency SOS feature debuted on watchOS in 2016 and made its way to the iPhone in 2017.