A Kentucky high school student is being hailed a hero after he intervened in what could have ended in the unthinkable for one of his classmates Monday.
Cody Hardin, an 18-year-old junior, told WCPO he was walking through the parking lot of Conner High School in Hebron, Ky., when a 16-year-old female classmate of his hurried by, tailed close behind by an older teen, later identified by police as 18-year-old Benjamin Margitza.
Hardin said Margitza kept asking the girl, who appeared distressed, to slow down so the two could talk, a request she continuously rejected.
"He said, 'Let's talk about this,'" Hardin told the station. "'I'll give you all the money I got. Let's go to the hotel room and talk about this. Let's talk. Let's talk.'"
Noticing something was amiss, Hardin says he tried to verbally convince Margitza to leave the premises before physically putting himself between his classmate and the suspect.
Hardin then walked the girl into the school building, shutting the door behind himself and alerting the school principal and resource officer, who was able to apprehend Margitza as he tried to enter an Uber.
According to the Boone County Sheriff's Office, Margitza flew from Las Vegas to Northern Kentucky late Saturday night with "the sole intention of making contact with the victim," who he met through an online application called Flinch approximately four years ago but did not heavily communicate with until recently.
Within the past year, Margitza contacted the 16-year-old again and began making explicit, sexual statements while obsessing over her and stating he wanted to marry her, authorities say.
The victim had no knowledge Margitza traveled to her state and was shocked when he approached her in her high school parking lot and grabbed her arm, according to Lt. Philip Ridgell.
"She was petrified," Ridgell said. "And rightfully so. She was trembling — very shaken."
Margitza allegedly told detectives he would have followed the victim into the school had Hardin not intervened.
Authorities also say he admitted his intent was to convince the victim to engage in sexual intercourse once he got her back to his hotel.
Margitza was charged with attempted kidnapping and criminal trespassing and was booked into the Boone County Detention Center. His bond has not yet been set.
Hardin was praised by local authorities following the traumatizing incident.
"You have an 18-year-old who made a life-altering decision today," Lt. Ridgell said. "Not only did he affect his life, but a 16-year-old victim’s life forever."
Hardin's father, Jody, initially had a much different reaction.
"What are you thinking?" Jody told WCPO in an interview. "That was my first thought. What are you thinking? The kid could've had a gun, a knife, a thousand things."
However, his apprehension over his son's deed quickly turned into pride.
"He did the right thing," he said of his son. "I wouldn’t expect any less of him. He's always there to help somebody."
Still, Hardin insists his heroic actions were nothing out of the ordinary.
"I'd do it any other day for anyone else," he told WCPO.