Disciplinary action taken following missing teen case

October 22, 2010 3:37:38 PM PDT
We are learning more about the circumstances behind the disappearance of a 13-year-old boy, who was dropped off downtown by Precinct 6 deputy constables when they were supposed to be taking him to the hospital. Now not one, but two, officers from Precinct 6 are being suspended. Now Kenneth Miller knows his name and his age, but during the days he was missing, people who might have been in a position to help him heard him say that he was from Beijing and he was in his 20's. One official says that's evidence enough that he needed help but didn't get it.

On Friday, Kenneth Miller returned to a shelter on Harrisburg where he was taken by a concerned stranger Tuesday, a day after the 13-year-old special needs student was reported missing by his parents. The Open Door Mission doesn't take in juveniles.

Miller recalled, "They said they couldn't help me. They said I had to go, or I had to just walk somewhere else."

A Precinct 6 deputy and a corporal responded. From the shelter, we're told they took Miller to a CPS facility on Chimney Rock. There, the constable says deputies were told to take him to Ben Taub Hospital. But Miller didn't want to go. So the deputy dropped him off in downtown Houston Tuesday night. After more than a day of searching, Miller was found Thursday.

On Friday, two suspensions were announced by Precinct 6. A short investigation led to Deputy D Jarardi being suspended for two weeks without pay. Corporal R Avendano will be demoted to deputy and suspended without pay for two weeks. The constable says there will be more specialized training for officers dealing with mental health patients.

Precinct 6 Constable Victor Trevino said, "I can't solve all the problems for all the other police agencies. But I hope that what we do here can serve as an example to other police agencies that we will not turn our backs on a special needs of mental health person."

Millers' parents did not comment on advice of legal counsel, we're told.

Community activist Quanell X, who accompanied the family, says it goes beyond one constable's office, but the failure of several agencies, from city to county to state, to do the job of helping those with mental challenges, unable to help themselves.

"Because the resources that should be readily available to law enforcement agencies when they're encountering and dealing with mental health cases is really not there," said Quanell X. "Unfortunately the county jail, where he was being booked into, is the largest mental health facility in the state of Texas."

The suspensions take place immediately. The enhanced mental health training, we're told, will begin at Precinct 6 on Monday.

Here's a quick timeline detailing the disappearance of Kenneth Miller:

The problem started on Monday afternoon, when he failed to return home after school. The family contacted Houston police to report him missing.

On Tuesday, around 3:30, a woman called Precinct 6 to report that Miller was walking around outside an east Houston grocery store. Deputies responded, and told the woman to take Miller to the Open Door Mission shelter. But the people at the shelter said he was too young to stay. Precinct 6 deputies arrived at the shelter and took him to Children's Protective Services. Then deputies were told to take Miller to Ben Taub Hospital. It was on Tuesday evening that Miller was released downtown.

On Thursday morning, Miller was taken into custody by police at the University of Houston. On Thursday afternoon, he was reunited with his family.

Witnesses recall finding Miller

Miller approached two University of Houston Law Center employees who were headed to lunch on Thursday.

Carmen Cuellar and Vicky Crane said the boy seemed tired and lost and was shuffling his feet. They say he took out a crumpled Google map from his pocket and asked them how to get to the international airport.

Miller apparently told the ladies he was trying to go back home to Beijing. He said his parents had died when he was younger. He said he had just walked for seven days and was trying to get home.

At that point, the ladies contacted facilities manager Robert Gonzalez and all three decided to call campus police to try to help this young man.

They did tell Eyewitness News the boy had no identification on him. When Gonzalez asked for his name, Miller responded by saying his name was Jet Li. They described Miller as mild-mannered and harmless.

Gonzalez said, "We worried about him. The police officers said they would probably take him downtown to see if they could fingerprint him to see if he could match somebody who was lost. That's how he ended up downtown, I guess, from here."

"I think people just need to be a little bit more observant," Cuellar said. "Because if you would observe him, he didn't look like a homeless person; he wasn't begging."

In a quick telephone conversation with the boy's mother, she said Kenneth is "not doing well" and was sleeping.


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