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The search continues for Ryan Larsen six months later

Posted at 8:01 AM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 09:01:30-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months.

Now six months later and the search is still on for Ryan Larsen, a missing 12-year-old boy with autism.

“We haven’t had a missing child case like this pretty much in the history here,” La Vista Police Department Chief Bob Lausten said. “We’ve had a lot of challenges in other areas and other cases, but because of the circumstances of this one this is something that you really want a resolution to.”

Ryan was reported missing on May 17th by La Vista West Elementary School around 11:45 a.m., where he reportedly left the school during a passing period.

A neighbor spotted Ryan around 1:30 p.m. that afternoon outside of the Southland Apartment Complex where he lived.

An umbrella that belonged to Ryan was found at the complex by a neighbor as well. He had the umbrella with him the day he went missing, and the family says the umbrella meant a lot to him because it was given to him by his sister who had recently moved out. The umbrella did test positive with his DNA.

There were surveillance cameras that picked up a person who police believe could be Ryan near La Vista Keno at 1:45 p.m. but they can’t identify it for sure.

Lausten says they are waiting on DNA testing for some other items they have found, but that is about all they’ve had to work with.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges with this because information really didn’t come in,” Lausten said. “We have a young man who suddenly just disappears.”

Federal, local and state agencies along with the La Vista community, have extensively searched Walnut Creek and continue to sporadically search the local area.

Lausten says the longer a case like this goes on, the suspicion of foul play increases. However, they still don’t believe he was kidnapped.

“We still don’t believe that he was abducted. There is no information that suggests that he was taken by a stranger,” Lausten said.

With the arrival of hunting season, Lausten asks hunters to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

“Again, we’re six months into this case, the chances that we may have a body out there; if they come across anything that seems really odd,” Lausten said. “In a field, by a riverbank, whatever, take note of that and call 911 and let us come out and check it out.”

Lausten says this case has proven why the first hour is so important in a missing persons case.

In order to get a quicker start in future missing person cases involving children with disabilities or adults suffering from forms of dementia, the La Vista Police Department has adopted a program out of California called ‘Take Me Home.’

“It’s kind of a precursor to any call that would come out,” Lausten said. “We have information from a family member about a child or an adult that has some type of a disability.”

This information would include some of the person’s special interests, places they tend to go, their characteristics, family members that live nearby that the person may have wandered off to, life-threatening medical concerns and if they might fear police or EMS. It also includes a photo of the person.

“When that call comes in, we can have units go to a specific area right off the bat before we go to a house to get the information,” Lausten said. “It gives us a head start.”

You can register your child or family member and learn more about the program by clicking here.

Only the police will have access to this information.

While this can be a beneficial tool for future cases the department is still fully committed to finding Ryan and finding closure.

“Our job is to find out where Ryan is at and what happened to him, and that’s still our ultimate goal,” Lausten said.

In response to Ryan's disappearance Papillion La Vista Community Schools has made a request for a proposal to install interior and exterior cameras at La Vista West Elementary, along with the other 15 elementary schools in the district.

Currently none of these schools have any cameras.

They say the process has extended to this point because of the search for funding, along with planning out the layout of the cameras at each individual school.