Med Student Recalls Being Kidnapped and Thrown Into a Trunk

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August 13, 2019

Chris Saffran fought to get free of the duct tape that bound him, as he lay struggling in the trunk of the car where violent drug dealers had kidnapped and thrown him.

Chris Saffran

Saffran, now 48 and a medical student at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, had previously worked as a New York City police detective. He had been undercover on a sting to bust crack cocaine dealers. But the plan went wrong. Two competing drug dealers and their crews began fighting over the drug sale. In the furious exchange, one gangster shot another.

The crew suddenly realized that Saffran was now a witness to the homicide. They grabbed him, threw him in the trunk of a car, and drove off to "dispose" of him.

Arriving at a nearby apartment, they dragged Saffran, still bound, and pushed him into a closet.

"They didn't know what to do with me," Saffran recalled. "My Spanish wasn't great, but I understood enough to know that they were arguing about who would kill me. They didn't have a gun at this point; the guy with the gun had run off. All they had was a steak knife.

"None of them really had the guts to stab a defenseless person to death," said Saffran. "It's not an easy thing to do. So there was this long argument about what to do with me." The time spent struggling in the closet, not knowing whether he'd live or die, was terrifying to him.

By this time, Saffran's backup team realized he was missing and in trouble. Police raced through the area in a door-to-door search. Yet hours passed, with Saffran helpless in the dark closet. As the police closed in, the kidnappers fled.

"It took a number of hours until I got discovered; I couldn't free myself," he said. "That was a bad one. It was a frightening, frightening lifestyle."

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