Officers work together when child is missing
Boy found safely near Lehigh, thanks to response efforts
November 10, 2012
The recent case of a safely recovered missing child showed that local law enforcement agencies can be ready to respond to those emergencies as soon as they happen.
Agencies worked together to help find the 4-year-old boy who went missing while being watched by a family member near Lehigh last week.
It was Nov. 2 when law enforcement was first notified of the missing boy, according to Lt. Kelly Hindman of the Iowa State Patrol.
The boy's grandmother was watching not only the little boy, but also other children as well, Hindman said.
"They were playing outside with their dogs," he said. "The 4-year-old had wandered off into the woods behind the house, where he had gone on trips with his grandmother before."
When the grandmother couldn't find the boy, she called the Webster County Sheriff's Department.
Hindman said Deputy Joe Paullin was the first to arrive at the home. At the same time, Hindman called other agencies to let them know what was happening.
"At least four of us showed up pretty rapidly," he said. "Before we got to the scene, we began scrambling to get State Patrol airplanes in the area. Our thought was, 'Let's get them on the way here, so then if we find the child we can call them off.'"
Three Fort Dodge police officers also arrived to help.
"Once they heard there was a missing child, they started responding," Hindman said. "I was really surprised to turn around and see officers from the Fort Dodge Police Department there. I support their decision completely."
Once investigators determined the boy had gone into the woods with his two dogs, they called in Webster County Sheriff's Deputy Tony Walter and sheriff's canine Cayd. Because the dog tracks scent, people were kept from the woods to eliminate nasal distractions.
"We had to prohibit people from going in there," Hindman said. "As much as they wanted to help, and as frustrated as they were, we had to make sure the boy's scent remained there."
Still, some officers set out on foot to look for the boy.
Sgt. Luke Fleener, who Hindman said is familiar with the woods in the area, started looking where the boy's grandmother said he might have gone.
According to Hindman, Fleener, who did not respond to a request for comment, found the dogs that reportedly went with the boy.
"He believed that the dogs were trying to lead him to the boy," Hindman said, "so he followed the dogs and they led him into the timber where the boy was at."
At first, the boy didn't respond when Fleener called out his name. But when the deputy picked him up, the 4-year-old began blinking. Fleener radioed that he had found the boy, and a Lehigh ambulance met him to check on the child's condition.
Hindman said the boy was scared, cold and tired, but medically fine. The child later told investigators that he got lost in the woods and lay down after trying to find his way out.
More than a week later, Hindman said he's still impressed by the response from both law enforcement and public safety agencies.
"I was pleasantly surprised by how many people were there," he said, "but I'd rather have too many people to manage than having to be screaming for help and not having anybody come."
The Iowa Department of Transportation vehicle enforcement, police from Dubuque and troopers from Cedar Rapids also helped, Hindman said. He was shocked to learn the Perry Volunteer Fire Department had even prepared to respond.
"We all know that you just can't start looking for missing children fast enough," Hindman said. "The quicker you can get people there and organized, and the quicker you can begin the search, the odds of success are alarmingly better."
When a child goes missing, he said, whether they get lost or are abducted, people shouldn't be afraid to call law enforcement immediately.
"People often use the comment 'I don't want to bother the police,'" Hindman said. "For lack of a better way of describing it, we're there to be bothered. That's why we're here, especially in a missing child case. Parents can't make a mistake by calling too early."