WESTMINSTER, Colo. - Westminster police are explaining why some 30,000 residents received two emergency alerts about a missing child -- the second of which woke up thousands of people early Thursday morning.
Gabriel Duwaik, 12, disappeared riding his bike Wednesday at 6 p.m. near 126th Court and Home Farm Lane. Duwaik has autism, is non-verbal and missed his daily medication that can result in him being very tired.
"When this has happened in the past, he has fallen into a catatonic-like state and we believed it was very likely that he could have fallen asleep in a nearby park or yard," police said.
Authorities said they issued a CodeRED emergency notification phone call around 11 p.m. Wednesday to a specified geographical location around his home.
"Throughout the night, officers conducted yard-to-yard searches within the entire Home Farm neighborhood, motor officers drove hundreds of miles within the city’s trail system, and both a bloodhound and helicopter responded to help locate Gabriel." Westminster police said.
"Around 4:30 a.m. all of the initial search procedures had been exhausted and we needed to expand our search area," police said. "At this point we were extremely concerned that Gabriel was endangered and had been missing overnight for almost eleven hours."
At that point, police issued a second CodeRED notification to an expanded geographical area.
"It is difficult to expand this area without also including the area in which it was initially sent," police said. "If the initial area is excluded, all addresses on the borders would be at risk of not being notified."
Police apologized for the inconvenient timing and said they try to be very selective in deciding when to use them.
"The Jessica Ridgeway investigation changed how this department handles missing persons cases," police said. "We take them very seriously and will do anything within our power to solve them. We were dedicated to finding Gabriel safe and recognized that we would likely need the public’s help to achieve this."
The 12-year-old was found about 90 minutes after the second alert was issued.
Police said landlines are automatically included in the CodeRED system. There is no way to remove your number.
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