FORKS — A search party combed the Sol Duc River on Monday looking for a Forks man who eluded Border Patrol agents after a weekend traffic stop on U.S. Highway 101 east of Sappho.
The man was last seen jumping into the river near Milepost 214 on Saturday about 2:30 p.m.
The Border Patrol received a call from a U.S. Forest Service officer requesting translation assistance for two people pulled over on the highway between Sappho and Lake Crescent.
“A Border Patrol agent responded to the scene and subsequently took one subject into custody for an immigration violation,” read a statement provided by Blaine sector Border Patrol spokesman Richard Sinks.
“A second subject fled the scene on foot and was last seen entering the Sol Duc River. A search for the second subject was conducted; however, the individual was not located.”
Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Peregrin said the man had not been found as of Monday evening.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian King, who works out of the West End detachment, said the local Latino community was out in force looking for the missing man Monday.
“I have no further information from the Border Patrol,” he said.
“What I do know is he is still missing, and he hasn’t been found.”
Because the missing man is considered a fugitive, the Sheriff’s Office can’t put its volunteer search and rescue teams in the field.
A full-scale search may only hinder the chances of the suspect coming out of the woods, King said.
“I think there was a question with his immigration status,” he said.
Although sheriff’s deputies were assisting in the search, Peregrin said his office will not mount a full-scale search and rescue operation.
“Our search and rescue group are unpaid volunteers, and we don’t put them into a situation where we’re searching for someone who’s fleeing the law,” Peregrin said.
The unarmed volunteers are not trained to deal with someone who may be aggressive, Peregrin said.
“We don’t know how he’s going to react,” he said.
“When someone runs from law enforcement officers, they’re running for a reason. That’s why we have restricted our efforts to our on-duty deputies.”
Friends and family members were growing more concerned Sunday because the missing man was reported to be a diabetic who doesn’t have his medication, Peregrin said.
The undersheriff said the man goes by the first name of Benjamin and is in his early- to mid-30s.
“Apparently, the individual has been in Forks for a considerable period of time,” Peregrin said.
No other information about the man, including his full name, was available.
Lisa Salazar of Forks Human Rights Group, a grass-roots coalition of West End citizens that formed in 2008 to document the increased Border Patrol presence on the Olympic Peninsula, said she could not provide a description of the man or what he was last seen wearing.
She said the man could not swim.
Salazar said a search party of about 50 looked in and around the Sol Duc River for traces of the missing man Monday.
Two boats were floated from the east Sol Duc River bridge at Milepost 212 — where the man reportedly jumped in — toward LaPush.
“They’re searching the entire river,” Salazar said.
The citizens’ search will resume today, she said.
Peregrin said the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t enforce federal crimes like someone fleeing from the Border Patrol.
“I hope we get a call from someone saying that he’s surfaced somewhere,” Peregrin said.
“But so far that hasn’t happened.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected]