UPDATE: The 16-year-old boy who was missing has been found safe.
After a large-scale search operation helped find a teen girl reported missing earlier this week from Greenwood, residents raised concerns that the same efforts weren’t expended to help find two other teens reported missing earlier this year.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children lists two teens reported missing out of Greenwood. A 16-year-old boy was last seen March 6, while 17-year-old Breyonna Outing has been missing since May 14. Both cases are under investigation by the Greenwood Police Department, which did not share information about their disappearances publicly through social media or news outlets.
Following the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office’s search Wednesday, which made use of bloodhounds, drones and dozens of officers from local, state and federal agencies, social media users questioned why the same tactics that were used to search for a white teen weren’t used to search for Outing and the 16-year-old, who are both people of color.
Greenwood Police Department Public Information Officer Jonathan Link said there are some fundamental differences between the county’s earlier missing person case and these two reports. He said both teens were reported missing from Greenwood, but they’re originally from other parts of the state — Outing is from Columbia and the 16-year-old is from the Berkeley County area. Those cases both began as runaway investigations.
“We knew where they were supposed to be, we knew where they had been and we had immediate knowledge that they left of their own free will trying to get away from here,” Link said.
In both cases, he said officers immediately made moves to search the areas near where they were last seen and did everything they’d normally do in the early stages of a missing person case, but officers quickly became confident the teens weren’t in the Greenwood area.
“Both of those kids were brought here from other parts of the state,” Link said.
Link said there were private details about the two cases that officers didn’t want to reveal. He didn’t post about the cases on social media because he said the police department’s page is geared toward informing people in the Greenwood area, and they didn’t believe the teens were here anymore.
“Our guys have worked and done everything that can possibly be done on those cases, and the reason they are in the database for missing and exploited children is because that’s the next step,” he said.
Once the teens were believed to be out of the police department’s jurisdiction, they listed them missing through law enforcement databases so that other agencies — especially in the teens’ home areas — would be aware of their disappearance.
“We have reached out and done the cross-jurisdictional things. ... We notified the police departments in their areas,” he said.
Link said organizing a multi-agency group search in Greenwood wouldn’t have been an effective use of resources, and that bloodhounds were unlikely to find the teens if their suspected intent was to get out of Greenwood.
Anyone with information about Outing's whereabouts is urged to call 911, 1-800-843-5678 or the Greenwood Police Department at 864-942-8401.