7-year-old missing boy found safe in downtown LA after intense search

ByABC7.com staff KABC logo
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Grandfather in tears after missing 7-year-old safely found in LA
A Mid-City man was moved to tears upon hearing that his 7-year-old grandson, reported missing the night before, was safely found in downtown LA.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A 7-year-old boy has been found safe in downtown Los Angeles less than 24 hours after police launched an intensive search for the missing child.

Derek Clay was reported missing Tuesday evening from his grandfather's apartment complex in Arlington Heights.

By 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, police announced that an officer had spotted the boy walking around downtown Los Angeles in the area of 5th and San Pedro streets.

He was in "good spirits" and there was no immediate evidence of foul play, according to LAPD Capt. Sonia Monico, with the Wilshire Division.

It was not immediately clear who he was with when he was found or how he went missing, but Monico said those details are still under investigation

Police launched a search for Derek around 10 p.m. Tuesday after his family said they had not seen him since about 4:30 p.m. in the 1100 block of Crenshaw Boulevard.

Clay was reported missing by his grandfather, Donald Lewis, who has had custody of Clay and his teenage brother for about six months.

When Lewis got the news of his safe recovery, he was overcome with emotion.

"I'm a Marine," he said, holding back tears. "We don't cry."

Just hours earlier, Lewis had referred to himself as "bewildered" and "stunned" by his grandson's disappearance.

"He never goes away," Lewis said Wednesday morning. "I mean, he does go away but he never stays this long before, you know."

Police say the grandfather attempted to find the boy for several hours himself before contacting the LAPD.

One neighbor told ABC7 he thought the boy's mother, who does not have custody, may have taken him.

Nelson Umana says he saw the mother around the boy a few days ago, prompting him to tell the grandfather of the meet up.

"I assume, and I hope, that his mom took him," said Umana. "Because, you know, she doesn't have custody of Derek, but I've seen her a couple of days ago. She was down the street, and he was going to go see her. He was walking towards her, and I told him I was going to tell his grandfather. So he came back. She needs help. She needs housing. She needs a job. She needs a man's support or family support, and I don't think she has that."

The LAPD says investigators did contact Derek's biological mother and talked with her to help locate him.

After Derek was found police did not immediately say if his mother had a role in his disappearance.

LAPD press briefing on missing child

The LAPD speaks to reporters about the search for a 7-year-old boy who went missing from his grandfather's home in Arlington Heights.

The LAPD searched the area, talked to neighbors and used bloodhounds to try to find the boy.

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Wilshire Area Police Station, at (213)473-0476. During non-business hours or on weekends, please call (877)527-3247.