Ride-share driver hailed a hero, rescues fleeing sex-trafficking victim, gets in shootout with captor

Sitting in the middle of a six-lane highway was safer than where she had been. Having already jumped from a third-story window, beaten, nearly naked and without options, the woman prayed for relief from a harrowing ordeal that began months before.

Her savior came in the form of a Seattle ride-share driver, a supporter of the Second Amendment, and champion of the underdog. Hailed a hero after engaging in a shootout with her pimp and successfully helping the sex-trafficking victim, identified as only H.A. in documents, escape her captor, according to the Associated Press.

“The defendant leads a sex trafficking enterprise that has operated in at least three U.S. states involving multiple victims, who have been exploited, harmed and maimed by the defendant’s violent and coercive actions,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Benjamin Gauen wrote in charging papers for Winston Burt, 30, who uses the street name “Dice Capone.”

Burt trafficked the 20-year-old victim, along with two other women, from California to Washington to perform sex acts for money roughly a month ago, prosecutors allege.

Held in a $1.4 million, six-bedroom AirBnB near Seward Park in South Seattle, the women were driven to Aurora Avenue in North Seattle where prostitution is common and expected to earn $2,000 daily. All of which was forfeited to Burt.

H.A. told police she worked for Burt in California and Arizona over the previous four months but things turned violent in October when she and another woman told Burt they wanted to quit prostitution and return home.

“He attacked the other woman, identified as S.T., in the rental home, kicking and pistol-whipping her until her eyes swelled shut, prosecutors said, and he forced the other women to participate in the attack, as well,” ABC News reported.

On Nov.2, H.A. allegedly received similar treatment, injuring her so badly her lip appeared to hang off her face, prosecutors said. For three days, Burt kept her confined to the rental home, without treatment for her many injuries. When Burt began to beat her again, H.A. fled through the front door wearing only her underwear but Burt picked her up and body slammed her on the floor, prosecutors said.

Fearing for her life, H.A. reportedly ran upstairs and jumped from the third-story window. H.A. hobbled into the street where a car stopped to offer help but the other women in the house said H.A. was “off her medication, that she was having an episode, and that she would be okay,” Seattle Police Detective Tammie Case wrote in an incident report. The women then forced H.A. into Burt’s Mercedes, claiming he was taking her to the hospital.

“Instead, Burt drove them to the Emerald Motel on Aurora Avenue, where they had been previously trafficked,” ABC reported. “Burt sent the others into the motel while H.A., still wearing only her underwear, remained in the vehicle with him. He told her he would let her leave, but that he would knock her teeth out first.”

H.A. escaped once again and fled into a busy six-lane highway. Several motorists called 911, according to reports, but no one stopped.

“H.A. felt safer in the middle of a busy highway, practically naked, at night than being within arm’s reach of the defendant,” Gauen wrote. “Surveillance video from a nearby business has corroborated H.A.’s account of what happened.”

H.A. sat in the road, desperate for help but afraid Burt, who tattooed his street name on the face of two of the women, would collect her again. Then her savior stopped his van and told her to get in.

Burt reportedly pursued his victim and her ride-share hero, shooting at them as they fled. The ride-share driver, who was also armed, exchanged gunfire with the pimp for several blocks until losing him on Interstate 5. The driver and H.A. met the police at a gas station.

Police took H.A. to a hospital where she was treated for black eyes, broken ribs, a broken leg and spinal injuries.

Police arrested Burt at his AirBnB and he is being held on $750,000 bail, facing human trafficking, promoting prostitution, assault and drive-by shooting charges, but given the “expansive reach of the defendant’s egregious behavior,” additional charges are likely, Gauen said.


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