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Massive search for missing boy ended where it began – inside the store

The search for this missing child ended where it began – inside the Haggen supermarket in the Barkley Village shopping center.
The search for this missing child ended where it began – inside the Haggen supermarket in the Barkley Village shopping center. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A boy playfully hiding from his mother at a Bellingham supermarket was found safely Tuesday afternoon, following a nearly two-hour search that involved officers from several Whatcom County agencies, including a helicopter crew.

No Amber Alert was issued, but Bellingham Police and others conducted a massive search of neighborhoods surrounding the Haggen supermarket in the Barkley Village shopping center, where the 8-year-old boy was last seen just before noon with his mother and two siblings at the meat counter, said police Lt. Danette Beckley. The family had just watched a movie at the theater complex across the street.

He was still there, an hour and a half later. I let him and mom have a moment.

Sgt. Jeremy Harper, Bellingham Police

Footage from Haggen security cameras showed the boy hiding behind a paper towel display, said Sgt. Jeremy Harper, who reviewed the footage with the boy’s mother as the air and ground search outside intensified. Police did not release the family’s name, but they posted the boy’s photo and a description of the clothes he was wearing on Twitter @BellinghamPD.

“You saw him separate from mom. He goes about 10 feet and hides behind a pillar,” Harper said. “He climbed behind some paper towels.”

After seeing the boy duck out of sight, Harper and the boy’s mother went to the paper towel display.

“He was still there, an hour and a half later,” Harper said. “I let him and mom have a moment.”

A police radio dispatch canceled the search at 1:38 p.m., saying the boy had been found.

Outside the store, several officers gathered to talk, expressing relief at the happy ending. All the officers said they had children, and one officer has a child on the way.

“We’ve all been there” as parents, Beckley said.

But before the boy was found, police summoned every available unit, including detectives, officers in patrol cars, motorcycle officers and officers riding bicycles.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies joined the search, as did a helicopter crew from a federal agency. In addition, volunteers with a local search and rescue team were mobilized to assist. Haggen employees scoured the store.

It’s in the same general area that an adolescent black bear has been sighted recently, but Beckley said that wasn’t much of a concern. Still, officers combed the Bellingham Greeways trail system, which has several routes through the Roosevelt, Alabama Hill and Barkley neighborhoods – in case the boy had left the store. Meanwhile, Harper kept his focus inside the 69,000-square-foot supermarket.

“Haggen employees, they know the building pretty well,” Harper said. “They really helped.”

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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