Merkel police improving communication when sorting criteria for Amber Alerts
MERKEL, Texas - After hours of trying to determine the whereabouts of Zoey Limon Wednesday, authorities contacted the Texas Department of Public Safety State Operations Center in Austin and an Amber Alert was issued - but just hours later it was discontinued.
Limon was found later that evening, but the status changed even before she was found.
"The Amber Alert needed to be discontinued because of the … information that we received," said Sgt. Christopher Ortiz with the Merkel Police Department.
That information Ortiz is referring to came from the teen's mother, but he wouldn't elaborate as the investigation is ongoing.
However, it's the factor in why the situation was downgraded from an Amber Alert to that of a "runaway/endangered child."
"That's where the confusion came into play," Ortiz said.
While Limon couldn't voluntarily leave -- she is 13, and isn't old enough to legally consent -- the bar of issuing an Amber Alert is set high.
If the child is 13 or younger, law enforcement needs to determine if the child was taken unwillingly among other things. If the child is taken without the permission of their legal guardian then it meets the requirement for the amber alert. If the child is taken by a parent or guardian, an Amber Alert can be issued if a murder or attempted murder was committed.
Furthermore, law enforcement has to have reason to believe the child is in immediate danger.
Merkel police had to evaluate all the pieces of Zoey's disappearance, and that information then had to be relayed to other agencies for the Amber Alert.
"During that process, there could be times and lapses when communication is not at its strongest point. But we have fixed that issue, Ortiz said.
None of the three suspects involved in Limon's Amber Alert have been charged at this time.