Mother and Son Arrested After App Was Used to Hold Victim at Gunpoint

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  It's a survival story that has police scratching their heads.

"This has got all the elements of being something where someone winds up dead," said Sergeant Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department.

On the first of September, Des Moines police documents show Ryan Jacobs of Clive responded to an online marketplace advertisement on the 'letgo' app to meet who he thought was the owner of a 2002  BMW at 1325 Mondamin Avenue in Des Moines.  He was told by a man that the vehicle was around back in the garage, but then three more men showed up, one with a black semi-automatic pistol, in an attempt to rob Ryan.

Parizek said, "This is probably the best example of why you need to take somebody with you and do these transactions in a public place."

Having no cash on hand, two suspects--one of whom police believe to be 17-year-old James Henderson--made Ryan drive them to the Hy-Vee on along MLK and withdraw $240 from the ATM.

"An armed robbery in an alley with a kidnapping element to it.  It doesn't get much worse than that. The only thing would be if he was shot," said Parizek.

Ryan, still held at gunpoint, was forced to drive the two to Merle Hay Mall, where they attempted to get shoes at Kids Footlocker. The suspects then made Ryan drive them to the Shop 'N' Save along MLK, where they purchased five bottles of Hennessey, one bottle of Ciroc Apple, and two other bottles of alcohol for nearly $300.

Upon exiting the store, they made Ryan sit in the back seat of his own car. The ride ended near a parking lot at 24th and Clark, where Henderson and the other suspect told Ryan they were taking his vehicle. Police say Ryan answered by saying, "You can have anything you want but you'll have to shoot me to take the truck." The suspects then fled the scene on foot.

Parizek said, "Why this didn't get on our homicide board, I don't know."

Henderson was arrested on Thursday at a Motel 6 on four robbery warrants out of Des Moines and one in Johnston. His mother, Sandrauel Tidwell, was also arrested on Friday and charged with accessory to a felony.

"They got a little too bold. If you are out making ATM transactions and running in and out of stores, we are going to find surveillance photos of you," Parizek said.

Police are still looking for the other men involved. Sergeant Parizek says online marketplace sites or apps like 'letgo' work best when transactions are done in public or near a police station to eliminate the chance of becoming a victim.