Crime & Courts

A child abduction in Butler County is fake, but the FBI training is real

Special Agent in Charge Darrin Jones speaks at Butler Community College on Wednesday about the FBI's child abduction training, which includes 33 Kansas law enforcement agencies. He was joined at the podium by Topeka Police Chief Bill Cochran, left, and Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet, right.
Special Agent in Charge Darrin Jones speaks at Butler Community College on Wednesday about the FBI's child abduction training, which includes 33 Kansas law enforcement agencies. He was joined at the podium by Topeka Police Chief Bill Cochran, left, and Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet, right. jtidd@wichitaeagle.com

When law enforcement officers from the FBI and several Kansas agencies canvass El Dorado on Thursday, investigators will be looking for an abducted child. But it won't be real.

A mock child abduction in the central Kansas city is part of an FBI field-training exercise.

Volunteers in El Dorado will participate in the exercise, where investigators will use skills and techniques from classroom instruction at Butler Community College to solve the fake abduction.

Family and friends of the victim will be interviewed, police will set up roadblock stops, neighborhoods and businesses will be canvassed for information and surveillance footage, and investigators will set up a mobile command post before recovering the "victim," an FBI release said.

"(The training) hits pretty close to home, especially with the incident in Wichita five weeks ago and the incident in Hoisington last night,” Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet said Wednesday. “So it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when it's going to happen here in our community."

In Hoisington, toddler Iviona Lewis was found dead Wednesday after she was reported missing on Tuesday. Her mother’s boyfriend has been arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder.

In Wichita, 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez has been missing for over a month. Police have said there is no evidence he was abduction.

Neither case will be a part of the training, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Darrin Jones. Details are pulled from cases that have been fully investigated or adjudicated in the past several years.

The training from those cases will include, “How they presented themselves, these are the actions taken, this is what worked well, these are the things we need to be better at,” Jones said. “It’s really a historic review of those cases”

In cases of missing or abducted children, the FBI wants the public to respond to requests from law enforcement for specific information, such as an Amber Alert that includes specific vehicle information.

“What we want is the public to really engage and respond to that,” Jones said. “If they think they’ve seen it and they’re not 100 percent sure, give us a call. … Maybe it’s not the right answer, but let us figure that out. I would say just showing up on a scene generally is not a good idea.”

Police will typically communicate when other assistance is needed, such as public searches, Jones said.

He advised people to be careful about what they post on social media when someone is missing and asked that any tips be sent directly to law enforcement.

“Putting opinions and putting other things out on social media that may not necessarily be based on fact can derail a bunch of resources and take a lot of things off track,” Jones said.

Thursday’s field exercise will feel real to the investigators. Role-playing volunteers will send them information, some of which may divert investigators from helpful clues. They will not make social media posts, though, for the public to share.

Some members of the public can get frustrated with police because they don’t understand what goes into an investigation, Jones said.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about what happens in these investigations,” he said. “It’s nothing greatly sophisticated. It’s really old-fashioned police work. We need to get out and talk to as many people in that area as fast as we can.”

Investigators may also intentionally withhold information from the public, which can frustrate people, he said. That is sometimes done so detectives can use the information to weed out tip calls or leverage other pieces of information, he said.

When a child is abducted, time is important, Jones said. Nearly 75 percent of children who were murdered after an abduction were killed within three hours of their abduction, the FBI release said.

Investigations can include several agencies from multiple jurisdictions, and the training is designed to speed up the investigation while bringing in additional resources.

The FBI's national Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team has been deployed 150 times since it was established in 2006, the release said. To facilitate a rapid on-site response, the team includes more than 85 investigators and analysts throughout the country.

The team and the training include specialized people resources for investigations, such as media experts, calligraphers, analytical and technical specialists and tactical resources.

Jones said Kansas law enforcement agencies are "ahead of the curve" in adopting the FBI training.

The FBI and 33 other Kansas law enforcement agencies are involved in this training, including the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office. The Wichita Police Department is not among the participating agencies listed on the news release.

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