Hundreds of volunteers and investigation personnel frantically searched for a 10-year-old Blackduck boy who was reported missing Monday afternoon
He was found safe at a friend's home in Kelliher hours later.
Angello Bell of Blackduck, was reported last seen around noon Monday by his mother, Renee. She contacted the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office after her son failed return home around 3 p.m.
Reports were sent out, alerts were issued and, along with authorities, volunteers from the community and surrounding areas assisted in the search for Angello.
Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said the entire ordeal was a simple misunderstanding.
"Angello's friend from Kelliher was in town and invited Angello to come to his house," Hodapp said. "He asked his mother if he could go to Johnny's house and she thought he said Jeremy's. Later on when Bell spotted Jeremy in the neighborhood and asked him where Angello was, she was told he hadn't been seen all day. She began the search for him, but he had gone to Kelliher."
Hodapp, Bell and the rest of the community said they were thankful that miscommunication was the resolution in Angello's case.
"I am extremely thankful to all the work that was put into finding Angello," said Bell. "The aftermath of feelings I felt, now two days after, the thoughts of living our lives without our son, are too hard to even express in words.
"One thing that stuck with me is each person I had a chance to look at, face to face, was a reflection of what they must have seen in my own eyes. The compassion that poured out of our community that day was overwhelming in every sense of the word."
Following the frenzy, a number of community members were confused and concerned that an Amber Alert hadn't been issued in connection with Angello's disappearance, and some felt law enforcement didn't do a sufficient job in recovering him sooner.
"A lot of people don't understand what is going on behind the scenes and what it takes to issue an Amber Alert," Hodapp said.
According to Hodapp, after a report of a missing person is initiated, an officer takes the information from that report and immediately begins to look in to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance.
In cases similar to Angello's, patrol officers conduct a search of what is called the point-last-seen. Monday, the Bell home was thoroughly searched to ensure that Angello wasn't somewhere inside.
The search then proceeds outward, and an officer will begin to make determinations of the child's friends, who are then interviewed, to see if they've seen or heard anything.
If the child is not found within a few hours, more officers are called in to help. That is what happened Monday.
Investigators from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Beltrami County's entire investigation staff, Minnesota State Patrol troopers, deputies, volunteers from the Community Guard and the State Patrol helicopter were all involved in searching for Angello.
In instances like Monday's, there was no witnessed abduction, which is a key factor in calling for an Amber Alert.
As stated by the U.S. Department of Justice, the criteria to issue an Amber Alert require s one or more of the following:
- There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that abduction has occurred.
- The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
- There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an Amber Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
- The abduction is of a child age 17 or younger.
- The child's name and other critical data elements including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center computer.
"In Angello's case, we had a mother reporting a child who had gone to play and disappeared," Hodapp said. "Nobody knew what happened to him. At that point, it is only a missing person. We had no reason to believe an abduction had occurred. We had nothing for the public to look for except the child."
Hodapp went on to clarify that the state has what is called a Minnesota Crime Action Network, which issued an alert for Angello.
When an MCAN alert goes out, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul sends out faxes, emails, etc. to businesses around the state. A KOPS Alert was also activated, which sends out a message to all the law enforcement agencies in the area.
"After sending out these alerts, we started three parallel behind-the-scenes investigations," Hodapp said. "We had a missing person investigation, a potential abduction of a child investigation and the search itself."
During a search like Angello's, these three groups worked closely together, yet had separate missions with different agencies looking at a variety of angles. Assessments and determinations of the child's whereabouts are made during the different investigations.
"While everyone was out searching Monday, a lot of concern was addressed to why we weren't calling for an Amber Alert and why we weren't doing other things," Hodapp said. "The public does not realize that so much is going on behind the scenes."
Hodapp explained that all the searches conducted are derived from the leads they receive.
"We're trying to find out the best information we can with our investigators and with search teams," he said. "We're always immediately following up on this information."
Hodapp explained that had the case progressed further than Angello's did, an even larger group of investigating officials would have been organized.
"We really have to be organized in any search," Hodapp said. "What we don't want is a lot of people out prowling around in disorganized fashion."
The problem with not organizing search groups is the possibility that an area isn't searched as properly and thoroughly as officers require.
"Crews are supervised by one of our searchers when the search expands," he said. "A command post with the area marked off is also set up to check off what was and wasn't searched. We don't want someone saying a specific area was searched when it wasn't."
Hodapp said residents of Blackduck did an excellent job in helping search for Angello.
"Nobody knows better than the local folks where all the little spots and hideouts are," Hodapp said. "If anyone finds anything while they are searching, they are urged to call law enforcement immediately."
Hodapp said when a case like Monday's occurs, he always assumes the worst, but prays for the best. This scenario fortunately is how things worked out for Angello, his family and the rest of the Blackduck community.