MCSO: Missing teen with autism found, appears to be OK

(Courtesy of the town of Queen Creek)

(Courtesy of the town of Queen Creek)


Jake Ouimette, the teenager with autism reported missing last night, Jan. 20, in Queen Creek, has been found safe.

The 17-year-old Queen Creek boy early this morning walked onto the campus of the Ben Franklin Charter School, 22951 S. Power Road in Queen Creek, where an employee assisted him and then called the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, MCSO Capt. Randy Brice said during a phone interview today.

A Ben Franklin employee who answered the phone this morning referred the Queen Creek/San Tan Valley Independent to the school’s administrative office, where the newspaper left a voicemail.

“We’ve located him and he’s fine,” Capt. Brice said. He said the teenager was undergoing a medical examination but did not appear to have any cuts, bruises or signs of exposure after his overnight ordeal.

More than 50 MCSO personnel and more than 100 citizen volunteers helped in the search for Jake, Capt. Brice said. In addition, police departments from Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert helped in following up on tips called into the sheriff’s office about possible sightings outside the Queen Creek search area, he said.

The search began after Jake’s parents reported him missing around 5:40 p.m. Jan. 20. According to Capt. Brice, the boy’s parents said their son told them he was heading to the park but he never returned.

The parents told MCSO there have been three similar situations that have taken place but none in Queen Creek, Capt. Brice said.

At that time, MCSO reached out for the public’s help using social media and reverse 911 calls, Capt. Brice said. The public was asked to not approach the teenager for fear of scaring or startling him due to his autism. Instead they were asked to notify MCSO by calling its non-emergency number at 602-876-1011.

Autism spectrum disorder is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Jake had been last seen around 5:20 p.m. in the area of 20353 E. Avenida Del Valle, near Ocotillo and Hawes, Deputy Joaquin Enriquez, MCSO public information officer, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The young man was described as wearing gray shorts and a blue shirt and was barefoot, according to a post on the town of Queen Creek’s Facebook page. He is about 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs about 245 pounds, Deputy Enriquez said.

MCSO used three helicopters, foot patrols and all-terrain vehicles during their search, said Capt. Brice, who said he had been up for 27 hours. He said MCSO received 20-30 tips about possible sightings, adding three sightings were confirmed after midnight — two by MCSO deputies and one by a volunteer searcher, all in the area of Chandler Heights near Power and Sossaman roads.

On Jan. 21, Officer Chris Hegstrom, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, Tweeted: “Maricopa County sheriffs (sic) deputies along with posse and over 100 community members were instrumental in locating Jake safely this morning.”

In an e-mail to the Independent shortly after 9 a.m. today, Officer Hegstrom said the young man was in good condition and being reunited with his family.

“It’s just such a relief that they found him and he’s OK,” Queen Creek Councilman Craig Barnes said in an instant message to the Independent on his Facebook page this morning.

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