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How does the Willmar Police Department handle missing person cases?

The Willmar Police Department has taken about 144 missing persons reports in 2021, the vast majority of them voluntary.

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Sgt. Chad Nelson speaks Aug. 15, 2020, at the Kandiyohi County Law Enforcement Center in Willmar about how the Willmar Police Department Cold Case Review Team found the primary suspect this July in the killing of Mabel "Mae" Agnes Boyer Herman. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The Willmar Police Department has taken about 144 missing persons reports in 2021, the vast majority of them voluntary missing persons. The process of reporting them is as simple as picking up the phone and calling the police.

Willmar residents can first call the law enforcement dispatch center and an officer will be sent to speak with them.

That officer will gather information and create a narrative of events, including a description of the person missing, where they were last seen and any possible medical issues.

And the idea that you need to wait a certain amount of time to report someone missing is not true, according to Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt. You also don’t need to be a family member to report someone missing.

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Sgt. Chad Nelson speaks Aug. 15, 2020, at the Kandiyohi County Law Enforcement Center in Willmar about how the Willmar Police Department Cold Case Review Team found the primary suspect this July in the killing of Mabel "Mae" Agnes Boyer Herman. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

However, the department will not take a missing person’s report on a long-lost relative, according to Willmar Police Sgt. Chad Nelson. It has to tie directly to a person’s safety and well-being.

“When the officer goes there and takes the initial information and takes the report, they’re going to make a couple of determinations: Is this a voluntary runaway or a person who just doesn’t want to be found? Is there something that makes them endangered?” Nelson said.

If the person is involuntarily missing or there’s reason to believe the person is in danger, that heightens the investigative response and the department will put more resources, like reaching out to the media or other law enforcement agencies for help locating the person, into the case.

This tactic has had some success as recently as this September with Cienna L. Azure-Descheuquet, a 13-year-old runaway from Willmar who was found in Idaho.

She went missing Sept. 11, Willmar police reached out to the media and law enforcement agencies later that month and she was found within days.

Related story: Missing Willmar runaway found in Idaho

“At the end of the day, it’s about finding them and finding them safe and as quickly as possible,” Nelson said.

The vast majority of missing persons reports are closed the same day with the person either coming home or being found by family, friends or law enforcement, according to police records.

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This is particularly the case for voluntary juvenile runaways.

“We recover them quite quickly,” Nelson said. “A lot of times it’s just knocking on some doors and following up with friends, other relatives and potential places where they might be.”

Nelson said the department still takes voluntary missing persons seriously, especially for juveniles or vulnerable adults.

“We still want to find the ones that are voluntary runaways because the people that are out there that would be more likely to help, those kinds of people probably aren’t the best people,” Nelson said.

This is would be the case for Abdinajib Muhumed Mire , 23, of Willmar, who stands accused of raping a 14-year-old juvenile runaway this June.

According to the complaint, Mire picked up the juvenile at a Willmar gas station and drove her to a wooded area in town. He then offered to pay her for sex before allegedly raping her.

Afterward, Mire drove her to a local pharmacy and bought her Plan B emergency contraception.

During questioning, Mire told law enforcement he had intercourse with the girl but denied knowing she was 14.

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Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt

Nelson said the biggest thing a parent can do to help prevent and find a juvenile runaway is just knowing your child, who they hang with and what they like to do.

“If your kids are going to go stay at a friend’s house, you meet the parents, you meet the (other) kids, so you know their name and you have contact information,” Nelson said.

As of Sept. 28, the department had taken about 144 missing person reports with about three still open and active. Concrete numbers vary from day-to-day due to the revolving nature of missing persons, especially in the case of voluntary missing juveniles.

According to Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt, the total number of cases is also misleading because there are instances when a single person can account for more than one case. He said this is a particular problem with juveniles in group or foster homes.

As far as involuntary missing persons, often it’s a parental dispute between who should have the child.

“We certainly don’t want to give the impression to the public that there’s vans going around abducting children or anything like that,” Felt said.

Mark Wasson has been a public safety reporter with Post Bulletin since May 2022. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter in the southwest metro and as a public safety reporter in Willmar, Minn. Readers can reach Mark at mwasson@postbulletin.com.
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The Tribune publishes Records as part of its obligation to inform readers about the business of public institutions and to serve as a keeper of the local historical record. All items are written by Tribune staff members based on information contained in public documents from the state court system and from law enforcement agencies. It is the Tribune’s policy that this column contain a complete record. Requests for items to be withheld will not be granted.