Mother Questions Police Procedures for Missing Daughter
ALTON – An Alton family is pointing fingers at the Alton Police Department for not treating their daughter's missing persons case differently. The police department said they followed procedure.
Gregoria Rios, Lydia Magdalena Gomez’s mom, said her daughter is developmentally disabled and has a mental delay. She said because of that, her missing persons case should have been treated differently.
“I just thank God because I don’t have nothing to thank them for, because all I know my daughter could have been dead,” she told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.
Rios said she doesn’t know if her daughter ran away, was pressured or coerced into leaving with someone she met online. Either way she ended up in Greeley, Colorado alone and far from home.
“Her mentality is not like a normal person, and this is what’s making it hard for her to get home,” said Rios.
The mom said after she learned where her daughter was, she wasn’t able to get law enforcement to do a welfare check.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS looked into it and asked if parents of adults with special needs have additional rights when it comes to cases involving their children.
We called the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities and the State Attorney General’s Office. We found cases like Lydia’s are handled the same as those without a disability.
The Arc of Texas, an organization promoting for human rights of those with intellectual disabilities, said that’s a concern.
“Especially when dealing with cases that involve law enforcement, I don't believe law enforcement has had appropriate training with individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities and how to respond to them,” said Kyle Piccola, chief government and community relations officer at Arc of Texas.
Piccola said it’s important not to “over protect” people with disabilities. At the same time, he said extra support to keep them safe needs to be provided. He said extra training would benefit both parties.
“We hear lots of cases where after the officer knows the individual reveals it to them that doesn't change the course of their actions and we feel some competency training would go a long way in making sure these individuals are supported in a way that they need to be,” he said.
We spoke to the Alton Police Chief who told CHANNEL 5 NEWS they followed procedure with Lydia’s case. She was first entered into a nationwide system as a missing person’s case on May 30.
The police chief said Lydia made contact with the department multiple times, telling them she was safe and didn’t want to go home, before the case was changed to a welfare check.
After an officer in Greeley, Colorado made contact with Lydia, Alton police said the State of Texas told the department to clear the case on July 28.