HAMMOND — Efforts in the search for Kyrin Carter, a 12-year-old boy who went missing from a Best Western hotel Saturday, are now being focused mainly on the Little Calumet River, which police believe he wandered into, an official said.
Hammond police Lt. Steve Kellogg said that, despite efforts being redirected toward the river, residents in the area should still check their porch cameras for footage of Kyrin, in case he was in the area.
Early Tuesday, search units were canvassing a portion of the river just behind the hotel in the stretch that marks Hammond's southern border, Kellogg said. The Best Western sits just north of the Little Calumet River, near Cline Avenue and Interstate 80/94.
Crews will continue their search throughout the day.
At the same time, police and firefighters were making checks between Kennedy and Cline avenues in an attempt to find Kyrin.
"We're being optimistic that we can still find this young man," Kellogg told The Times.
Kyrin, who has autism, was last seen at the Best Western at 3830 179th St. about 12:30 p.m. Saturday. A statewide Silver Alert was issued for him that day.
Searches early in the week have been scaled back from efforts over the weekend, when hundreds of volunteers and representatives of 25 different police agencies from across Northwest Indiana and neighboring Illinois helped in the search. On Monday, about 40 people, almost all volunteers, continued the search, along with police K-9s, helicopters, boats, drones and regular patrols, Kellogg said.
Police have twice sent a dive team into the river, which is about 15 to 20 feet deep. Divers turned up wood and debris about four blocks west of the Best Western Monday evening.
"There was a concentrated effort down the river," Kellogg said. "The K-9s were able to locate a scent where they thought was a good, strong location. Two dogs from different locations converged on the same area. So we called the dive team. They searched that area. We sent two different dive teams in and we came back empty."
Amy Rivera, a volunteer searcher from Griffith who was out Tuesday, said she felt a personal connection with Carter's situation. She he has a 9-year-old autistic son.
"It hit close to home for me," Rivera said between rounds of searching the grounds surrounding the river on foot.
Another volunteer searcher, Bryan Flemming, of Gary, has an adult son who is autistic. He said he's been surveying the landscape and trying to imagine where his son may have been attracted to or where he may have gone.
Flemming and Rivera were just a few of several who devoted their time to help look for Carter.
Surveillance video showed Carter leaving the hotel by himself Saturday. There's limited video since the surrounding area consists largely of marshland in the watershed and industrial businesses. One video police reviewed caught movement by the river, but it turned out to likely be searchers for Carter and not Carter himself, based on the time it was recorded, Kellogg said.
Carter was described as black, 5-foot-4, 130 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a light blue shirt, dark blue shorts with a light blue stripe and no shoes.
Anyone who thinks they have spotted Carter is asked to call 911 immediately and keep an eye on him, but not approach him, until police arrive.
"He is autistic and he's probably very scared," Kellogg previously told The Times. "If you spot him, do not approach him. Maintain visual contact with him and call 911 immediately."
Carter and his immediate family are from Kansas City, Missouri, and were visiting family this weekend, Kellogg said.
His mother, Danielle Duckworth, told NBC 5 Chicago he slipped out the back door during an engagement party. He has always loved the water, she said.
"I just want him to come back home. Everybody he's been talking about is here. I want him to see them," Duckworth said. "I just want him to make it home in one piece. That's all I want."
Anyone interested in volunteering with the search can walk the banks of the Little Calumet River in Hammond and Highland, without getting too close to where they would risk falling in, Kellogg said. The turnout of volunteers has been much larger than normal for a missing person search.
"I've got numerous, numerous phone calls from parents of autistic children," he said Monday. "They said they know someone else would come out for me and they know how it is so they want to come out and help. A lot of it is that and a lot of it is a good community here in the Region coming together and saying, 'hey, we're not going to let this happen.'"
Authorities expanded weekend searches to the woods surrounding the hotel, the river and marsh area, an industrial strip along the interstate, some residential areas between Cline and Kennedy avenues and as far south as Ridge Road, and into Hammond's Hessville neighborhood, south of 169th Street.
Residents within a three-mile radius of the hotel are asked to review home surveillance video or doorbell cameras to check if Carter might have been in their area.
Residents also are asked to check any areas where a child could hide, including garages, in and under parked cars or boats, in public restrooms at parks, or any other area that hasn't been checked in a while, Kellogg said.
Anyone with information not related to Carter's immediate whereabouts is asked to call Detective Sgt. Nicole Duncanson at 219-852-2968.