A sea of windbreakers with the Police and FBI logos descended on the San Fernando Swap Meet this Friday, Feb. 24, next to Cesar Chavez Learning Academies. They were there to announce the federal agency was joining the search for Elias Rodriguez, a 14-year-old teen who disappeared after leaving school last Friday, Feb. 17.
“The FBI is here to assist in our investigation. Have a fresh set of eyes to look at this,” said Lt. Katie Burns, of the Los Angeles Police Mission Division.
What the police knows is that Elias left the school last Friday at around 1:30 p.m. He is seen on surveillance cameras along Glenoaks Boulevard near Griswold Street at about 1:40 p.m. After that nobody knows where he went.
Elias’s disappearance happened in the middle of a fierce storm that flooded streets and caused all types of problems in the area.
“We believe this case is unusual. Elias is not known to run away,” she said. “We’ve got to explore every tool we have available,” Burns added, noting they have used the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigations for other missing children cases in the past.
Burns announced they would be going door to door, business to business on the route Elias would normally travel from the school to his grandparents home along Griswold Street in San Fernando. That includes several warehouses in the area.
She noted that about 60 personnel are working on the investigation, which so far has checked the entire Los Angeles River by helicopter on several occasions.
This week, the police searched the area with dogs and they also drove on the wash all the way to Los Angeles Zoo – the last area where it’s drivable – without finding anything.
Despite the rain, Burns said dogs have been known to pick up scents several days later.
The family, which has been in anguish since his disappearance, remains hopeful he will be found safe.
“It gives us greater hope. The FBI and the LAPD know how to work these situations and they’re going to do their best effort to find Elias,” said Jessenia Vega, the teen’s aunt.
She said the family fears the boy may have fallen in the Pacoima Wash as he headed to his grandparents’ house, which wasn’t far from the school.
“And at times I think he was kidnapped. And if that’s the case, the city has a big problem,” Vega added.
The Los Angeles City Council approved a $50,000 reward this week for any information leading to the finding of the boy. If you know anything about his whereabouts, call the LAPD’s Mission Station at (818) 838-9800.