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Ryan Larsen search updates: Authorities lowering Papillion lake

The 11-year-old autistic boy has been missing since he left school around noon Monday.
Updated: May. 23, 2021 at 12:11 PM CDT
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PAPILLION, Neb. (WOWT) — To further the search for 11-year-old Ryan Larsen, the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District is lowering Walnut Creek Lake’s water levels “by a few feet,” La Vista Police said Sunday.

La Vista Police said Sunday evening that dive teams finished preliminary searches in the area Saturday night, but that lowering the creek levels “will give search teams better physical and visual access” to the water. Officials revealed later Sunday night that the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District had already begun lowering the lake. They said the process began at about 7 p.m. Saturday and was expected to finish at about 7 p.m. Monday.

LVPD again confirmed that search efforts focused on the Walnut Creek area after a K9 unit picked up a scent there. Personnel from 15 area law enforcement and fire departments have been helping with the search for Ryan, the release said, expressing appreciation for first responders and volunteers alike.

Police also passed along resources from Project Harmony to help families talk about Ryan’s disappearance with children. According to the Project Harmony flier shared in the LVPD tweet, experts recommend letting children lead the discussion and that parents “look for the helpers,” as Mr. Rogers suggested, and not be afraid to say “I don’t know.” It also recommends limiting kids’ exposure to breaking news.

Earlier on Sunday, LVPD said the search for the Ryan had moved away from Walnut Creek Recreational Area, which had been closed to the public since Thursday evening to allow search crews to work.

Police would not reveal details about current search efforts Sunday morning, but the recreation area was open, with no sign of authorities nearby. An LVPD spokeswoman said a release would be distributed later in the day.

Meanwhile, La Vista Police tweeted that their search of the area “concluded Saturday night,” and emphatically stated once again that social media rumors circulating about the boy’s disappearance were false.

The LVPD tweet also asked people to share the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children flyer about Ryan.

La Vista Police told 6 News on Saturday that the recreational area would remain closed as teams continued to look for Ryan, who has been missing since he left school around noon Monday and is presumably without food or crucial medication to treat his autism.

In an update posted just before 5 p.m., LVPD talked again about the scent picked up by a K9 unit, noting that it could be “animal, human, or otherwise.”

LVPD said Saturday that no news briefings would be held this weekend unless Ryan is found. They also shared the poster of Ryan now displayed on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website.

Authorities also were warning the public not to spread false information and rumors as such reports hinder efforts to find Ryan.

Saturday afternoon, 6 News observed crews from Benington, Waterloo, and Yutan coming in along Turkey Road to assist with the search. Among several agencies aiding in the search, Nebraska State Patrol was providing air support as well as personnel.

Authorities have blocked off access to the Walnut Creek area since Thursday night to discourage people from coming in and possibly scaring off Ryan if he was hiding there, according to LVPD. Police tweeted Friday night that dive teams would continue searching Walnut Creek.

Saturday morning, LVPD tweeted there was still “no new update on the ongoing search.”

LVPD said Friday — and reiterated Saturday — that search dogs had picked up a scent of some sort, but that there was no way to tell any sort of details about what they were detecting. The news came hours after an update from LVPD Chief Bob Lausten, who said that authorities were focusing their search for Ryan in multiple areas beyond Walnut Creek Recreational Area, where much police activity has been observed in recent days.

SEARCH COVERAGE: Monday May 17 | Tuesday May 18 | Wednesday May 19 | Thursday May 20 | Friday May 21 | Saturday May 22

The Emergency Missing Advisory for the boy expired Friday, and Ryan’s disappearance has since been considered a missing person case.

LVPD called off volunteers Friday as multiple law enforcement agencies continued their search for Ryan. In a tweet Friday morning, LVPD suggested those who want to help should instead offer their support by way of donations to The Salvation Army or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Volunteers had been helping to look for Ryan since he went missing on at noon Monday.

Local, state, and federal agencies continue to assist with the search. Sarpy County K9s are supporting LVPD officers, and search-and-rescue dogs from Des Moines were also heading to the area. Omaha Police has provided additional support including aerial patrols, and Council Bluffs Police officers have also been helping with the search. Yutan and other agencies are sending dive teams, Lausten said.

Earlier in the week, police had checked throughout the ductwork at the school and had even gone through several times with thermal imaging equipment, but found no trace of Ryan. Searches this week have also focused on areas near Ryan’s home, with K9 officers checking in many directions and officers going door-to-door.

Search teams were also deployed on waterways at the recreational area and near La Vista Central Park on Thursday, LVPD said then, noting that “autism experts have shared that children with autism gravitate toward water.”

LVPD requested assistance from the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on Wednesday.

What to do if you see Ryan

Ryan, a sixth-grade student, was last seen Monday leaving school. He is described as white, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, with brown hair and hazel eyes. At the time of his disappearance, he was wearing a black jacket, blue jeans, an Old Navy shirt, and was carrying a polka-dot umbrella.

If you see Ryan, authorities say not to call his name; instead, keep your distance and call 911. Anyone with information about his location should call Sarpy County Crimestoppers at 402-592-STOP (7867); or call 911.

Ryan Larsen, 11, has been missing since he walked away from his school in La Vista on Monday,...
Ryan Larsen, 11, has been missing since he walked away from his school in La Vista on Monday, May 17, 2021. He was last seen wearing this exact sweatshirt, La Vista Police said.(La Vista Police Department)

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