Sunday evening, a 17 year old boy with Down syndrome turned up missing, after he parted ways with his Mom at Sunday night Mass. He didn’t want to go, and while she was turned the other way in a conversation at the Church, he skipped out.
By late night, he still hadn’t surfaced, so we spent the rest of the night looking for him: searching the Church, a nearby hospital, searching his home, checking open businesses, and so forth. Since he has a developmental disability, we treated this as a child at greater risk, even though he was clearly voluntarily absent, and followed our usual practice in such cases.
At daybreak, we were putting out a full-scale alert to the media, and making outbound phone calls using achildismissing.org. A command post was established to coordinate a door-to-door search by a group of officers. The Church was searched again, his home was searched again, the hospital across the street was searched again.
Late morning, a caller contacted us and let us know that James was at the Burger King. I happened to be mobile at the time, so I stopped by. He was blithely chatting with Officer Stacey Fitch about the Iowa v. Penn State game, among other topics. He told her he had spent the night sleeping in a parked car. “Car or truck?” she asked. “A Cadillac,” he replied.
He was a gregarious, talkative youngster, lightly-dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. I’ll bet he got a little chilly overnight. He told me that he had a sausage biscuit at Burger King and a hamburger.
We’re glad this had a happy ending. So far this year, James is missing person number 1,604 for the Lincoln Police Department. Yes, you read right: that’s one thousand six hundred and four, with over three months to go in 2009.