Durham, N.C. — The Durham Police Department said Wednesday that a computer network outage kept information about a missing Hillsborough man from getting to the National Crime Information Center, a prerequisite for issuing a Silver Alert through the state's system.
In a response to media inquiries, the department said it launched an internal investigation into the actions of the officers involved in reporting 73-year-old Jasper Villines as a missing person.
The report said that prior to reaching the conclusion that Villines qualified for a Silver Alert, Durham police officers learned that he had died.
Villines 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. At about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, police put out a message to all officers about Villines with a description of him and his vehicle.
Family members said they were told that Villines was not old enough for a Silver Alert.
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. Alerts have been issued recently for people much younger than Villines.
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.
According to a timeline of events prepared by the department, officers were attempting to process the various forms needed to enter Villines into NCIC when a network outage occurred.
The outage, around midnight, occurred at Durham Police Headquarters and the Durham 911 Center, which affects access to the dispatch computer, the Internet and DCI. The DCI is where NCIC information is entered into the system.