JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - A Jackson County firefighter said he is happy to be alive after his rescue truck was carjacked at knife-point. Randy Retherford said he has seen a lot in his 17 years as a first responder but nothing like what happened to him on Tuesday evening.
“You hear about it, you see it on TV and read about it, but when it becomes reality, it’s different,” Retherford said of the incident.
Retherford had responded to an overturned vehicle on Forts Lake Road a couple of miles north of his station. The driver had lost control of his pickup truck and crashed into a telephone pole. The bumper of the truck still sits in a big gash left in the ground from the impact.
When he got to the scene, Retherford crawled into the pickup truck to turn it off. There, he noticed a knife in a sheath.
“I didn’t think about it at the time, until the incident went down," he said.
The driver, Jesiah Rain Cady, said he didn't want to go to the hospital. Retherford agreed to give him a ride home. It's not a common practice, but Retherford said he felt sorry for him.
“I didn’t think it would be unsafe. He was a little belligerent at the scene and little angry, but most people are,” Retherford said. “You lose your sense of normalcy after you flip your vehicle and hit a telephone pole.”
Reflecting on his decision, Retherford said “You like to think you’re a good judge of character with everybody, but sometimes you make the right decision for the wrong reason. I’ve made that decision before and it worked out fine, it just so happens this time it didn’t."
What Retherford didn’t know was that Cady had a violent past, including an arrest for battery with a deadly weapon.
As they were driving, Retherford said Cady began to act paranoid and appeared to be hallucinating. Retherford said the hair stood up on the back of his neck. When Retherford remembered the knife he said he knew he was in trouble and he had to make a plan.
“You start running scenarios through your head. You’re mind is just spinning,” he said. “Do I take a chance and go combative? That is going to escalate the situation. Or do I continue to try to talk to him to try to deescalate the situation?”
Retherford also said he was thinking about his wife and children.
“It’s a fight or flight, and you got to make your mind up which one you’re going to do, you can’t get caught in between," he said.
As he drove his rescue truck across the state line, Retherford said he knew he didn’t have many options. He knew a church parking lot up the road was his best chance. He pulled into the lot to try to get away.
“When he turns enough to see me, I see the blade of that knife, so as soon as I see the blade of that knife, my trucks rolling, I’ve already got my door open and my trucks rolling and I pop the brake and I throw it and I’m gone," he said.
Retherford said he got out just as Cady lunged toward him with the knife. Retherford he took cover behind a trailer in the parking lot as Cady came after him.
“The guy got out. He was screaming obscenities at me. He acted like he was going to come towards me." Retherford said Cady seemed indecisive. "He turned back around, got back into my rescue truck jumped in and took off.”
Cady was arrested by Mobile County deputies at a trailer park about a mile down the road. He was charged with first degree robbery.
The incident left Retherford tired but relieved.
“You expend so much energy. Mentally you’re exhausted. You feel like you ran a marathon. When it’s all said and done you just take a deep breath and say ‘Thank God I’m still alive,'” he said.
“It ended up good, but it could have been very bad,” Retherford said on Friday. “I would be very, very very hesitant to ever make the decision again to give somebody a ride.”