A Florida college student exploring the Alabama wilderness with his girlfriend died in a shootout with a would-be robber who posed as a stranded motorist, authorities said.
The death led to the discovery of an "off the grid" encampment in the woods, two arrests and law enforcement being confronted by a 5-year-old boy armed with a shotgun at the camp, authorities said.
Adam Simjee, 22, and his girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus – both students at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida – were driving in the Talladega National Forest near popular Cheaha State Park in east Alabama on Sunday when a woman, Yasmine Hider, flagged them down and asked for help with her car, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said.
Hider then pulled out a gun and ordered them into the woods, sheriff's officials said. That's when Simjee brought out a gun he was carrying and the pair got into a shootout, Clay County Sheriff Jim Studdard said.
“Adam pulled out his gun and told her to get on the ground, and that’s when she started messing around with her gun. It jammed once but they both shot at each other and she was shot a few times and he was shot only once,” Simjee’s 20-year-old girlfriend, Mikayla Paulus, told WBMA-TV, an ABC affiliate.
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Simjee died despite the efforts of Paulus, who was performing CPR on him when authorities arrived, a statement from sheriff's officials said. She was not injured.
Hider was shot several times and underwent surgery at a Birmingham hospital. She was awaiting transfer to a jail and will face charges of murder, kidnapping and robbery, authorities said.
Officials were looking for a second suspect, and during the investigation, they learned there might be a group of people "living off the grid" in the national forest, the sheriff's office said in a statement. The Alabama Department of Corrections used tracking dogs and found a group of tents set up in the national forest, about a mile from Cheaha State Park's boundaries.
Officers saw a woman, Krystal Diane Pinkins, as they approached the camp and ordered her to the ground. That was when a child ran from the woods holding a loaded shotgun, according to Studdard.
Authorities said they told the boy – age 5 – to put down the shotgun, but he continued to approach the woman, who authorities later discovered was his mother, before laying down the weapon.
The local Department of Human Resources was notified and took custody of the child. Pinkins, 36, was arrested on charges of suspicion of endangering the welfare of a child, murder, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of robbery.
Studdard said it didn't appear that anyone else was using the camp at the time. It was about a half-mile from the site of the attempted robbery. It is legal to camp in the Talladega National Forest, forest service officials said, but only for 21 days at a time.
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The camp was turned over to law enforcement for the national forest who will dismantle it, the sheriff said.
Court records did not show whether Hider or Pinkins, who had an address in Memphis, Tennessee, had an attorney who could speak on their behalf.
Simjee and Paulus were getting ready to begin the school year at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, she told AL.com.
“We were starting school on Monday, so we wanted to do one last road trip,” she said.
“I lost the love of my life,” Paulus told the news site. “This will be with me forever.”
Contributing: Associated Press
Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Talladega National Forest shooting leads to discovery of camp, child