U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Georgia woman charged with kidnapping after hijacking news van with reporter inside

Incident Details

Date of Incident
April 14, 2020
Atlanta, Georgia


Was the journalist targeted?

Equipment Damage

Equipment Broken
April 14, 2020

A woman was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia, and charged with kidnapping after police said she hijacked a news van on April 14, 2020, with a reporter inside.

Atlanta police spokesperson Officer Anthony Grant told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that at approximately 5:30 a.m. police were called to the scene of a crashed Toyota involving a pregnant woman, later identified as 38-year-old Seniqua Lunsford.

A CBS46 news crew was nearby to cover the crash, the outlet reported, and had just finished a live shot. Reporter Iyani Hughes had started the news van to power her computer as she sat in the back editing footage, while the photojournalist with her stood outside.

Grant told the Tracker that, unbeknownst to the officers approaching the scene of the crash, Lunsford exited the vehicle. She then jumped behind the wheel of the news van and sped away.

Grant said that officers heard reporter Hughes’s screams, attempted to stop the van and then gave chase.

Police spokesman Officer Steve Avery told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Hughes attempted to make Lunsford pull over.

“The suspect wouldn’t do that, so [Hughes] did the smart thing: She got into her seat and put her seat belt on,” Avery said.

The chase ended when Lunsford crashed the news van into a traffic circle approximately a mile away, deploying the airbags. Police quickly arrived at the scene and arrested Lunsford, Officer Grant told the Tracker.

Hughes was not injured in the crash, Grant said, but was taken to the hospital as a precaution. During the course of their investigation, police learned that both Hughes and Lunsford are pregnant.

CBS46 Station Manager Jeff Holub told the Tracker, “This was obviously a very dangerous and frightening situation and we are happy that Iyani is OK.”

Lunsford is being held on charges of kidnapping, which is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison under Georgia law.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].