The FBI joined Los Angeles police Friday in the search for a 14-year-old boy from San Fernando, vowing they are “pursuing every lead” to find the teenager, who has been missing for a week.
Law enforcement personnel searched a roughly three-block radius near the Cesar Chavez Learning Academy in San Fernando for information leading them to Elias “Eli” Rodriguez, who was last seen around 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 17 in the 1000 block of Arroyo Street in San Fernando after leaving school.
“Whether it was unfortunate and he got in the wash or something worse happened and he got picked up by a predator, we have to look into all of those,” said Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Katie Burns at a Friday news conference near the school.
The purpose of the gathering was to announce that local authorities had enlisted help from the FBI.
“We asked for their assistance, which is another fresh set of eyes,” Burns said. “We believe this case is unusual because Elias is not known to run away or have any problems or have any reason to be away from home. So we have to explore every tool we have. We’ve had them in the past assist other missing juveniles. We’re going to take all the resources we can.”
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Additionally, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a $50,000 reward for information to help authorities find the teen.
Before his disappearance, Burns said Rodriguez called his mother using a friend’s phone at the school but she did not pick up because she didn’t recognize the number. The teen left a message saying he would be walking home.
His normal route was to travel from Arroyo to Glenoaks Boulevard and then to Griswold Avenue, authorities said.
“He was last seen on Glenoaks prior to Griswold,” Burns explained. LAPD Captain Robert Marino added that there is video of a person matching Rodriguez’s description walking in front of some businesses at Glenoaks around 1:40 p.m. Feb. 17.
The Los Angeles River was searched several times for the teen, including with a helicopter on Thursday, Burns said, adding that a car was used to drive along the wash until forced to stop in the L.A. Zoo area.
“In the future, we are going to take additional steps depending on what happens,” the lieutenant said.
Jessenia Vega, who is Rodriguez’s aunt, said after the news conference she was encouraged by how many people were participating in the search.
“I’m thankful for that,” Vega, of Sylmar, said. “It gives us hope that we’re going to find him.”
Vega said another search with members of the Facebook group “Please Help Find Elias ‘Eli’ Rodriguez” was planned for 7 a.m. Saturday outside of the learning academy school at 1001 Arroyo Avenue. “We’re hoping we don’t need to,” Vega said. “We’re remaining hopeful we’ll get word” that Rodriguez has been found.
Before the news conference, Vega said the teen was on his way to his grandparents home.
“Sometimes (people will) take a shortcut of go through the wash but he never did it — even when it was dry — so I can’t imagine him doing it when it was raining,” Vega said.
Vega added she’s been worried her nephew may have fallen in the wash or even been kidnapped, a crime she felt was an issue in San Fernando.
“If it’s that, then the city has a big problem and they need to take care of it,” Vega said. “They need to be more vigilant and not treat a missing report case just like a runaway. They need to do what they’re doing here for my nephew. They need to do that for all cases.”
Rodriguez is Hispanic, 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs around 100 pounds, police said. He has brown hair and brown eyes and was last seen wearing a black baseball cap, gray sweatshirt and black sweatpants. The sweatshirt has the word “Lakeview” on it.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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