Ryan Larsen search in La Vista area heads into third week

A multi-agency search for the 11-year-old boy has focused largely on the Walnut Creek Recreation Area.
Monday will mark three weeks since 11-year-old Ryan Larsen went missing. The search for the La Vista boy has largely focused on the Walnut Creek Recreation Area
Updated: Jun. 6, 2021 at 10:37 PM CDT
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LA VISTA, Neb. (WOWT) - Monday will mark three weeks since 11-year-old Ryan Larsen went missing. The search for the La Vista boy has largely focused on the Walnut Creek Recreation Area, a place familiar to him.

“Every time we’re driving through, or walking on the dock I have my head on a swivel and hope I see something,” said Kaylin Hamilton, who was fishing off a dock at Walnut Creek Lake on Sunday. “I can’t imagine the thought of my little brother being missing and having absolutely no idea, just without a trace.”

A multi-agency search of the Walnut Creek area has taken place over the past few weeks, with divers, police dogs, and helicopters all involved in the intensive search for the boy with autism.

Where water once stood, people now sit fishing after the lake was lowered by authorities in search of Ryan, but to no avail.

“I mean there’s always hope so you can’t let go of that,” said Kristina Branson, who was walking around the lake with her husband. “There’s always a chance and you have to cling onto that hope as best you can, so we’re keeping our eyes peeled and you never know what might happen,” David Branson said.

“When I’m walking that’s what I’m looking for,” said Connie Harrison, who lives nearby. “Really, I truly hope that Ryan is found and that he’s OK.”

Back at the dock, Hamilton also wants Ryan to be OK, but is well aware he might not be.

“That’s not the outcome I’m hoping for, but I just hope I see him walking around,” she said, noting she’s holding out hope.

La Vista Police did not have any updates Sunday on the search for Ryan, but 6 News was told the police chief may be available to take questions Monday.

What to do if you see Ryan

Ryan, a sixth-grade student, was last seen leaving school Monday, May 17. 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
Ryan Larsen(WOWT)

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 puts up 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 Bennington, 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 have no new information to share 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.”

Friday May 28: La Vista Police held a press conference and mention that they will continue their search next week in different areas. The 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.”

Saturday May 29: Six fire departments in the Omaha-metro area join the La Vista Police in the continued search. Volunteer firefighters and divers from Ashland, Bennington, Council Bluffs, Plattsmouth, Waterloo, and Yutan were seen near Walnut Creek.

Monday May 31: LVPD says that half of the department’s 40 officers are assigned to Ryan’s case, but that amid the search, officers are also balancing service calls. Captain D.J. Barcal tells 6-News: “We still have an obligation to the citizens to enforce all the laws and attend to their needs.”

Tuesday June 1: Chief Lausten says 80 personnel from the Omaha-metro, some from Redoak, Iowa, were canvassing areas close to Ryan’s home near 83rd and Harrison streets; and near La Vista Keno, an area authorities believe Ryan was last seen.

Wednesday June 2: LVPD said authorities are reviewing information gathered during the previous day’s door-to-door canvas in hope of developing any potential new information or leads. Surveillance video is sent to Quantico to be enhanced; Chief Lausten says Ryan’s mother does believe it is him in the recording.

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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