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Video: Girl survives hostage ordeal

TODAY contributor
updated 2/19/2008 9:22:05 AM ET 2008-02-19T14:22:05

Nicole Street refuses to let one crazed person control her life, even a person who took her hostage at a gas station, held a shotgun to her head and threatened to kill her.

“I’m not going to let it take over my life and let it control what I do,” the courageous 16-year-old told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Tuesday, three days after her ordeal. “I’m not going to live in fear of it.”

The Crawfordsville, Ore., girl pulled into a service station in nearby Brownsville shortly before 2 p.m. on Saturday to get gas. Around the same time, a man later identified as Earl Thompson arrived at the station with a shotgun after alarming his neighbors with what they described as angry and erratic behavior.

He walked toward Nicole’s black Dodge Neon, and at first she just thought he was an attendant coming to fill her tank.

“He just asked me to roll down my window, so I rolled it down just a few inches, and he then told me I had to roll it down all the way, and at that moment I knew that I was in some trouble, that he was the person causing some commotion at the gas station,” she told Vieira, her voice calm.

“He told me he needed my help, and that he wouldn’t hurt me if it wasn’t necessary,” Nicole continued. “But he would hurt me if he had to, and that I needed to get out of my car. I told him I didn’t want to get out of my car, and he said, ‘I’ll hurt you if I have to. Don’t make me hurt you.’ ”

At that point, most people would have panicked, and Nicole said she feared for her life.

“I thought he would for sure shoot me,” she admitted. “I stepped out of the car and he then grabbed me with his arm around my neck, and pulled me — or [dragged] me — over in front of the store,” she said.

He held the shotgun to Nicole’s head, but she managed to stay calm and kept talking to Thompson.

“I thought that if I could talk to him, keep him talking, it would help me and it would take his mind off of shooting me,” she explained from Halsey, Ore.

Angry and erratic
About 10 minutes before Nicole’s ordeal at the gas station began, Thompson’s neighbors had called the Linn County Sheriff’s Department to report that he was storming about the neighborhood.

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Sgt. Dave Lawler got the call and was directed to the gas station, arriving shortly after Thompson took Nicole hostage.

She said that Lawler’s arrival boosted her spirits. “When I saw the sheriff, I had hope that I would make it out alive,” she told Vieira.

The station’s attendants had taken refuge inside the building, locking the doors behind them and preventing Thompson from getting inside, where he might have held out for hours.

Lawler, who was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, confronted Thompson, and a standoff began. Thompson was loudly demanding a news crew and a helicopter. He was also yelling that he wanted to see his daughter in Salem.

When Thompson failed in an attempt to break the glass on the station’s door with the butt of his shotgun, he ordered Nicole to get on the ground, keeping hold of her by a hand in her belt.

When Nicole crouched down, Lawler started shooting, striking Thompson. When Nicole heard the gun discharge, she thought that she had been shot, but when she looked back, she realized Thompson had been hit and she took off running.

Thompson was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Thank you,” her father, Len Street, said when asked if he wanted to say anything to Lawler. “Everything went the way it was supposed to. You couldn’t have asked for it to have gone any better.”

Then he smiled slightly and added: “Other than not going to the gas station.”

Nicole had only recently gotten her driver’s license and her car, and drove it everywhere she could. Vieira asked her if she had any hesitation getting back on the road.

“No,” she said simply. “I was out yesterday. I’m OK.”

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