SEQUIM – An extensive search for a 12-year-old Gig Harbor boy ended with the boy found safe after having played a practical joke.
And the Sequim city attorney will decide next week whether his family will be billed for the cost of the six-hour manhunt on Friday.
“Obviously we’re thrilled that no one is hurt or dead or missing, but obviously a lot of staff time went into tracking down leads,” said Sequim police officer Rick Larsen, who was the lead investigator.
The search began at 1:20 p.m. when a Sequim Applebee’s Restaurant worker found a note underneath the boy’s plate with “Help Me” written in crayon.
The boy and his father and another man already had paid for their meal and left the restaurant in an unknown vehicle, according to a written statement from the Sequim Police Department.
Sequim police used a charge slip from the restaurant to check vehicles registered to that name, then checked driver’s license information against eyewitness sightings of the group elsewhere in Sequim.
That led them to a Gig Harbor address, the statement said.
The child was found safe in his father’s custody and the incident was determined to be a hoax, the release stated.
“I got the call at 1:20 p.m. and we had it wrapped up by 6 p.m.,” Larsen said.
“Within two hours, we knew who the child was. It was an outstanding investigation.”
The Sequim Police Department had nine people working the case in addition to personnel from Clallam County’s 9-1-1 PenCom dispatch center, the Gig Harbor Police Department and the Pierce County Sheriff Department’s records division and dispatch center, Larsen said.
Sequim resident Sterling Epps, a representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, helped the investigation immensely, Larsen said.
But an Amber Alert – issued to help in the search for a missing child – could not be broadcast until police could verify the incident was a criminal act, according to the police department’s statement.
Just before 7 p.m. Friday, Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies found the two men who confirmed that the boy was safe and the note was left in the restaurant as a joke.