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Ryan Larsen search: Authorities examine more La Vista video, further investigate sex offenders

Day 22 of the search is also Ryan’s 12th birthday.
Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 3:13 PM CDT
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LA VISTA, Neb. (WOWT) - As the family of Ryan Larsen on Tuesday marks the boy’s 12th birthday without him, the La Vista Police chief told 6 News that law enforcement is continuing to analyze all leads in the case.

Chief Bob Lausten said last week’s door-to-door searches in the La Vista and Ralston areas near Ryan’s home and school “generated some intelligence info” that authorities are now working through.

“One of the things we’re going through is a ton of video,” he said. “We’ve had to pull officers from different areas of our department to watch video all day to see what’s in there.”

The police chief said most of the La Vista businesses have voluntarily shared their surveillance video, but in some cases, investigators have been delayed while authorities work through corporate divisions to obtain video from some businesses.

“One of the roadblocks we’ve hit is a couple key places we need to see video from have put up a legal stonewall with our corporate divisions,” Lausten said. “So instead of voluntarily being able to get video from a couple places we want to see, we’ve had to go a subpoena route.”

Authorities also did a cadaver dog search at a few local bodies of water to no avail, he said, noting that crews have finished ground searches in the area, including several at Walnut Creek.

LVPD is now looking more closely into sexual offenders in the area, Lausten said.

“We had a general idea early in the investigation of sex offenders that lived in a certain proximity to Ryan’s home. We’ve expanded that proximity,” he said. “So again, we’re looking at the history and whereabouts of where some of our sexual offenders have been in the Omaha area.”

Lausten said he never expected to hit Day 22 of a search like this.

“We thought this would be solved on (that) Monday night: He wandered away, and there he is. But when you get into this long, I think the idea of a ‘wander away’ — that’s probably not the best theory right now,” he said.

The chief said he has about five theories but is unsure what the best theory would be — and said none of them are concrete.

“I’ve been here over 30 years, and this is the first case we’ve had with an endangered missing child that’s gone this long,” Lausten said. “Some cases turn into runaways — family dispute or a family had taken the child. But we’ve never had something that’s like this: He’s here one day, and he’s gone.”

LVPD is also in touch with the family every day, he said.

“We’re in touch with Ryan’s mom every day, and again: We’re looking at everything. We have a duty to Ryan more than anybody to find out where he’s at and what happened.”

Tuesday night the community gathered at La Vista Central Park to honor Ryan’s birthday. “This means a lot to us Mario is one year older than Ryan and he also has autism,” said Mary Sanchez. “I hoping it can bring peace and let Ryan know that people care.”

Ryan’s mother Tammy was at the event, but told 6 News it’s still too emotional to talk about her son’s disappearance.

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.

Sunday June 6: As authorities enter the third week since 11-year-old Ryan Larsen went missing, the search for the La Vista boy continues to largely focused on the Walnut Creek Recreation Area, a place familiar to him.

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)

Digital Director Gina Dvorak contributed to this report.

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