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Ryan Larsen search: La Vista Police will continue search next week in different areas

Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 4:34 PM CDT
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LA VISTA, Neb. (WOWT) — Starting into the Memorial Weekend, the La Vista Police gave updates on Friday in the continued search of missing 11-year-old Ryan Larsen.

On Monday, May 24, La Vista Police were notified of a missing child case in Hammond, Indiana. They say the child was a 12-year-old boy with autism who walked away from a hotel in the suburbs in Chicago. The child was found 10 days later on Monday dead.

They got in contact with the police in Hammond on Tuesday and spoke with detectives and search and rescue personals on how they found the missing child and “picked up on a couple of ideas.”

Chief Bob Lausten says they will go back to Walnut Creek as many times as they can get the resources to go back until it’s completely eliminated. He mentions in the Hammond case, they also lowered a dam just how they lowered the creek levels. Similar to the Hammond case, they want to try the ROV underwater drone in the creek.

The chief also asks people in the area of 84th and Harrison this weekend to think back on Monday night, May 17, between noon to 4 p.m. if they saw Ryan.

“If you see something that’s out of place, or smell something that is out of place, smells unusual, take a look and see what it is and areas around water.”

A witness says he saw Ryan at about 1:50 p.m. near his apartment on 83rd & Harrison. A video that officials believe is Ryan that was mention previously with police in the background was sent to the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Virginia for enhancement.

They say the video gives a rough timeline of 1:30 p.m. and they are “quite confident that it is [him] but don’t know for sure until enhancement. They mention to call 911 or the La Vista Police to give good information.

While coming across many tips from people police say they’re getting a lot of stuff that is sending them in a lot of different directions and they need to really narrow it back.

Officials don’t want tips “heard from a friend who heard from a friend, or a theory someone has.” They also mention that there isn’t a need for any more search parties.

In the conference, the chief says to keep the family in thoughts and prayers and they have been “nothing but cooperative” in the entire investigation. Officials believe Ryan “wandered off and is an endangered missing child” and there’s “no evidence that shows any different.”

The missing poster of Ryan has been sent to surrounding states and the La Vista Police has received help from Council Bluffs and Des Moines. They haven’t searched in those areas and want to focus around 83rd and Harrison.

They plan to go as long as they can on the search and say they will continue searching next week in different areas. Officials did search Walnut Creek again and say some of the “searcher and divers wanted to go back and felt they haven’t completed what their work is.”

One of the reasons for the heavy attention on Walnut Creek, they say, is due to the fact that Ryan knows the area very well and his mother works in the area. They “believe something is in that lake.”

The police department says they’re very concerned about the child’s well-being since he may have been without medication and also “may have been without food and water.”

Chief Lausten says they’re concern about the complications without the medication and the anxiety. As they continue on in the search and investigation, La Vista Police are still working with the FBI, Omaha Police, Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office, and Nebraska State Patrol.

“They’re anchors that help with manpower, personal, and resources.”

Further, into the press conference, the chief agrees with one of the reporters who mention the idea of schools in the community having cameras in place. He also thanks Mayor Kindig for canceling the Salute the Summer and supports the decision.

While the police department is prioritizing this missing child case, they do mention that they still have to deal with everyday crime.

“Crime hasn’t stopped. No one’s taking a holiday because we have a missing child. “[We] prioritize what we are doing.”

Towards the end of the conference, the chief brings up the Amber Harris case and how the 12-year-old child wasn’t found for about seven months. He also brings up the 1992 murder of Kenyatta Bush and how the 17-year-old’s body wasn’t found for 10 days and that things take time.

He ends the conference by mentioning Project Lifesaver being a valuable program for people who wander and the training the department went through.

Continuing coverage

Monday May 17: La Vista Police ask the community’s help to find Ryan Larsen, an 11-year-old La Vista boy with autism, last seen that day leaving La West Elementary at noon. A neighbor at the apartment complex where his family lives later reports seeing Ryan there shortly after he left school. Nebraska State Patrol issues an Emergency Missing Advisory for Ryan.

Tuesday May 18: LVPD responds to two possible sightings of Ryan, including one near the La Vista Library.

Wednesday May 19: LVPD asks for federal assistance in the search for Ryan. The FBI and FEMA become involved in the case.

Thursday May 20: LVPD a caution tape perimeter around Walnut Creek Lake in Papillion to discourage groups from gathering there as authorities focus their search for Ryan there. In a news conference that night, Police Chief Bob Lausten urges the public not to speculate or share rumors, saying it does more harm than good.

Friday May 21: La Vista Police reveal that K9 units picked up a scent of some kind at Walnut Creek Recreational Area, but Lausten says authorities are still searching in other places, too. Nebraska State Patrol says in a news conference that the Emergency Missing Advisory regarding Ryan would expire as it’s been in place for 72 hours. Local, state, and federal agencies continue to assist with the search.

Saturday May 22: LVPD tells 6 News that the recreational area would remain closed another day as teams continued to look for Ryan. 6 News observes crews from Benington, Waterloo, and Yutan coming in along Turkey Road to assist with the search. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website displays a “missing” poster of Ryan. LVPD later reveals that the Papio Natural Resources District began lowering Walnut Creek Lake around 7 p.m.

Sunday May 23: La Vista Police reveal that dive teams finished preliminary searches in the area Saturday night, noting that lowering the creek levels “will give search teams better physical and visual access” to the water. Police also passed along resources from Project Harmony to help families talk about Ryan’s disappearance with children.

Monday May 24: In a news conference, Chief Lausten says K9 officers have given three indications. Noting that they could have picked up an animal or human scent, or something else, the chief says multiple dogs had hit in the same area — “one Friday, one Saturday, and one (Monday)” — so search efforts become focused on the northeast end of Walnut Creek. Divers are able to access that area, but Ryan isn’t found.

Tuesday May 25: Authorities had no new information to share Tuesday on the search, but said they believe Walnut Creek Recreational Area has been thoroughly searched.

Wednesday May 26: La Vista Police says they are focusing search efforts on surveillance video, particularly one from La Vista Keno taking the day Ryan was last seen. LVPD asks businesses and homeowners along Harrison Street, between 72nd and 96th streets, to check their security footage and let police know if they see “any sign of Ryan.”

Thursday May 27: La Vista Police reported no new developments Thursday as they continued their search for Ryan. They also asked that the family’s privacy to be respected. “We are updating them frequently on our search for Ryan, and they are understandably fearful and concerned. Please be understanding of their decision regarding public comments or lack thereof.”

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. LVPD is also urging the public to use its See It, Say It, Send It app to submit tips, but to also “be mindful of unsubstantiated rumors circulating on this case.”

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)
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children issued a poster for Ryan Larsen, who has...
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children issued a poster for Ryan Larsen, who has been missing since Monday, May 17, 2021.(National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

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