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Police: Family Should've Called Sooner About Missing Man

Posted April 22, 2008

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— Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said Tuesday that issuing a Silver Alert for a missing Hillsborough man might not have prevented the man from being killed by a car over the weekend.

Jasper Villines, 73, was helping his wife return a rental car to Raleigh-Durham International Airport at about 6 p.m. Saturday when he took a wrong turn off the Durham Freeway and became lost, relatives said. He had recently been diagnosed with dementia, they said.

He was walking east in the westbound lane of N.C. Highway 98 at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday when he was hit by a car at the intersection with Sherron Road and was killed, authorities said. His vehicle was found a short distance away.

Villines' wife and daughter said they asked Durham police to put out an alert for him, but their requests were ignored.

The state's Silver Alert program, which started in December, is designed to more quickly locate adults with mental impairments like Alzheimer's disease. Bulletins are issued to law enforcement agencies and media statewide.

"He would've loved for somebody to have found him, yes. He'd be home with us right now," said Ava Johnson, Villines' daughter.

A state Highway Patrol trooper told the family that he stopped Villines at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday because he was driving erratically, but he let him go because there was no alert for law enforcement to be on the lookout for the man.

That occurred about 30 minutes before the family called 911 to report him missing.

Because Villines died about six miles from where he got lost, his relatives said they believe the trooper or other officers had time to locate Villines again if an alert had been issued.

"I think it would be hasty to say that would've made the difference," Lopez said.

The family waited five hours to report Villines missing, which gave officers less time to find him, Lopez said.

"I think timing is everything. We got it a lot later than we should have," he said.

Still, he said, it shouldn't take hours to implement a Silver Alert. Villines died almost two hours after his family notified police and asked that officers look for him.

"I don't know why there was the lapse. We're looking into it at this point," he said.

Lopez said he plans to go over Silver Alert protocol with his officers and will add information on Silver Alerts to the police department's Web site.

52 Comments

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  • Common Sense Man Apr 23, 2008

    ""State trooper who stopped the man - If he was driving erratically and he's elderly, why let him go?"

    As I understand it, unless the person is visibly incoherent or a obvious danger to himself or others, a LEO is risking charges of profiling or racism by detaining a subject who wants to leave."

    I wouldn't agree with that at all. Detaining someone, for whatever reason, has nothing to do with race. Officers are used to the race card being played and generally don't let it affect what they do.

  • Common Sense Man Apr 23, 2008

    "SURPRISE SURPRISE The Durham Chief blames the family for not notifying his officers soon enough. If all they were going to do was sit on their rears, what difference did make when they were notified."

    According to the report he was entered into NCIC as a missing person and a BOLO was broadcast. If the Trooper who stopped him never heard the BOLO all he would have had to do was run his license and it would have shown that he was missing and endangered. Unfortunately the trooper stopped him before he was reported missing. It's very sad.

  • TechRescue Apr 23, 2008

    "State trooper who stopped the man - If he was driving erratically and he's elderly, why let him go?"

    As I understand it, unless the person is visibly incoherent or a obvious danger to himself or others, a LEO is risking charges of profiling or racism by detaining a subject who wants to leave.

    "Erratic Driving" can be because someone dropped a cell phone or is tuning a radio station. It gives a LEO justification to stop the driver, but without any supporting evidence of impairment he would lack probable cause to detain.

    Corrections from the LEOs on the site?

  • whocares Apr 23, 2008

    It says that he was stopped because he was driving irratically but that there was no alert. The police are trying to put this onto the family. If they had issued the alert in the first place perhaps none of this would have happened.

  • Just Once Apr 23, 2008

    The original story was the Police refused to issue the alert. What happened to that?

  • HappyGirl08 Apr 23, 2008

    Why was he by himself? If you even let him drive why in the name of anything would you let him be alone?? It is terrible that he got lost, I imagine he must have been scared, and it is even more terrible that he was killed, however, I have to place some blame on his family for not recognizing that he needed more supervision than that.

  • b4self Apr 23, 2008

    EMS;Very well said and so true and here's one very big THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU AND LEO,we the general public as a general rule find it must easier to blame someone else , than to say thak you for what you try to do. So sorry for this family but what if's aren't gong to change a thing.

  • teacher56 Apr 23, 2008

    Bottom line is when you have someone in your family with dementia it is the family that must take care of the individual. You are the "first responders" so to speak. This is a tragic situation but it never would have resulted in death if the keys and car were not available to the man.

  • AuntySocial Apr 23, 2008

    Would it have saved him? That question is like the how many licks does it take...the world may never know. But splitting hairs doesn't excuse the police for not issuing the alert. It could be that that would have saved him. Now we'll never know.

  • sophiemom Apr 23, 2008

    I agree with CarolinaAlum that it is odd that the police officer did not take more action with an elderly driver who seemed to be driving in an erratic fashion, and that the family was allowing him to drive at all. But who knows, I did not know the man and wasn't an eye witness to the erratic driving. This is a sad story.

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