On the Front Lines: Summer 2018

Washington residents respond to AMBER Alert to help rescue young boy

Police take down suspect in Washington AMBER Alert activation

Washington AMBER Alert Coordinator Carri Gordon was in the middle of a Child Abduction Response Team (CART) training when she received an email requesting an AMBER Alert for a case involving a five-year-old boy and custodial interference. The email was sent by the Lake Forest Police Department at 12:03 p.m. on March 28, 2018.

Gordon stepped out of the training to get more information. She talked to Lake Forest Police Chief Stephen Sutton and other officers to determine if the case met the criteria for an AMBER Alert.

The police said Taraille Chesney took his non-custodial son. At 11 a.m., dispatchers received a 911 call and could hear arguing before the call ended abruptly. When police officers arrived, the suspect drove away recklessly at a high rate of speed. Officers chased Chesney, but he got away.

“We were working with the state patrol to identify the criteria,” said Chief Sutton. “We were hung up on one criteria, ‘Was the child in danger?’”

Washington AMBER Alert Coordinator Carri Gordon

Gordon works for the Washington State Patrol and knew the police chief, as they had worked together before. “I received clarification that the child had been taken by force from his custodial grandmother,” said Gordon. “The father was also known to law enforcement as being violent in the past and had outrun police earlier this same day.”

After determining the case met the criteria for an AMBER Alert, Gordon entered the alert at 1:24 p.m. through the state’s LEAP system, which sends emails and faxes to law enforcement, media, transportation and other stakeholders.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) also sent the alert to public cell phones through the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. The Washington State Emergency Management Division activated the Emergency Alert System and the Department of Transportation activated highway signs.

“I knew once the vehicle information went out that the calls would begin immediately, and they did,” said Gordon. “Within minutes of the WEA activation the public began calling 911 with sightings of the vehicle within the city limits of Seattle,” said Gordon.

After a short chase, police say the suspect was involved in multiple car collisions and rammed a Seattle police car, ultimately being surrounded by law enforcement vehicles.  As police had their guns drawn, Chesney got out of the car and was taken into custody.

Officers took the boy out of the car moments later. News helicopters captured the arrest and the victim was later seen sitting with an officer on the trunk of a police car clutching a stuffed animal. The child was recovered 45 minutes after the AMBER Alert went out.

“The AMBER Alert system worked flawlessly,” said Chief Sutton. “Our partners in law enforcement did a fantastic job getting the suspect into custody.”

The suspect was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment, custodial interference, assault, violating a protection order, eluding police and driving under the influence.

“The alert was so effective in that it safely and quickly recovered the child,” said Gordon. “I think this is a great example of how the system is intended to work and we would not have had such a quick and successful conclusion without the help of the public.”

Gordon says this case will also serve as a lesson in the future on the importance of finding out quickly whether a child is in danger.

“I just believe this alert is a great example of how all of the various aspects of the AMBER Alert system work together to get the word out to the public,” said Gordon. “We rely on them to help recover abducted children, which is our goal with AMBER Alerts. We can always do better and should continue to learn from each success.”

This was Washington’s 86th alert since the program began in 2004.