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Ryan Larsen search: La Vista Police focus on area north of Harrison Street

(WOWT)
Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 12:43 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - La Vista Police Chief Bob Lausten gave more updates Tuesday on the second week of the search of missing 11-year-old Ryan Larsen.

Over the weekend on Saturday, divers were back at Walnut Creek for an extensive search. The divers were from Bennington, Plattsmouth, Valley, Waterloo, and Yutan.

There were three cadaver dogs searching with the divers and says “we came up empty.” All three dogs have hit several times in the northeast of Walnut Creek and there was another hit on Saturday.

Chief Lausten went on to say as of today, there are going back to “ground zero,” meaning where Ryan was last seen.

La Vista Police said he was last seen in the area of 83rd and Harrison streets near La Vista Keno. About 80 personnel from the Omaha-metro, including personnel from Redoak, Iowa, were divided into groups focusing north of Harrison Street.

The chief says the extensive search was roughly around 90th to 94th streets, north to Ralston avenue. There a lot of apartments, wood, and water in the area. This was the area the department initially searched in the beginning but they say there wasn’t a forensic type of search as it was today.

The police are looking for any pieces that can lead them to searching a different area.

“Ledes are few and far between.”

Further into the conference, Chief Lausten brings up how the search of Ryan brings up the number of missing children in the country. He mentions the search of missing 11-year-old Xavior Harrelson in Iowa, the 12-year-old boy in Hammond, Indiana, and a boy’s body that was found near Las Vegas yesterday.

“Wasn’t our missing child, but it was someone’s missing child.”

While working on this missing case, the Chief says that the department is still taking calls of service and “about half of the department working on this case and the other half has to do what we do to protect and serve citizens of La Vista.”

“Our community is very strong, they are taking this personally. Ryan is one of our own. La Vista is a different community.”

The department has decided to not use CrimeStoppers yet due to not having anything criminal but “might have to go down that road.” The Chief is still hopeful, “maybe he holds himself up somewhere or is with somebody.”

“But, if he’s out there alone, it very well could be a recovery effort. Kids don’t go missing like this. It’s unusual. It’s all hands on deck.”

Looking at all scenarios, they say there’s nothing that shows the case as an abduction or any criminal activity.

“He was here at one point, then he was gone.”

Chief Lausten confirm the department has Ryan on video on May 17 but they haven’t seen him after that.

“We showed the video to the mother, she believes it’s him. That [video] has been sent to Quantico, Virginia for a specialist to enhance. We had a neighbor say they saw him walking westbound from 1:50 pm on Monday, May 17, and walked back towards the dumpster, and walked back to his apartment.”

He continues to say that “according to the neighbor, [Ryan] looked nothing out of the ordinary” and the last time he was seen was by his apartment.

In the conference, they say Ryan left the school at about 11:52 a.m. and police responded at about 12:20 p.m. after being notified.

“Officers are familiar with Ryan. Several of the officers that responded know him.”

The plans to return to Walnut Creek are still in the air but it’s possible the department may return to the area for further searching.

“If a cadaver hit or smell, it’s there, it’s always going to be there. There’s something in Walnut Creek.”

“We found nothing, in what we believe he had, we have no idea what he had with him. The current has gone differently in last two weeks, water temperatures, if there was anything in here, we thought it would have risen to the surface by now.”

As of now, there aren’t any updates on the “ground zero” search. The Chief believes that it is strange that there aren’t more videos of Ryan with the idea that he was walking all over the neighborhood.

“Somebody has to have seen something. If we get to a point, where we have no workable information, we have to start dialing it back.”

The department has reached out to other agencies such as the FBI in Washington for tips. He also brings up what was seen in the La Vista Keno video that includes police in the area.

“Shows shots between KFC and La Vista Keno. Shows a figure wearing dark clothing, dancing around a bit, hiding behind a pole. Believes to see a cruiser driving in the back, then the figure moves to another pole in the parking lot.”

There is no confirmation or proof that the idea that Ryan saw this as a game and could have been actively hiding from the police.

“Could’ve been, don’t know that’s an assumption.

In this department of 40, the chief stresses how heavy this is weighing on everyone.

“We have other things we have put to the side to focus on this. It’s taking a toll, it’s taking away from their personal lives. They’re professionals, this is what they decided to do for a job, and we expect them to do it.”

Watch Tuesday’s news conference

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)

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.”

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