Percy Julian runaway found after Chicago adventure

? Spotted by Chicago Park District worker near lakefront on the South Side last Thursday.

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By BILL DWYER

Curtis Briscoe, the 12 year old Percy Julian Middle School student reported missing last Thursday morning, was found unharmed that evening on the South Side of Chicago, more than 10 hours after he was dropped off at the school.

Briscoe had apparently run away from home after becoming upset with what Oak Park Deputy Police Chief Robert Scianna characterized as routine parental discipline.

"He decided to run away to Grandma's house," said Scianna. "(His parent's) car went one way, and Curtis went the other."

Reached by phone Monday night, Curtis's mother, Diedre Hooker, didn't want to talk about the ordeal, except to praise the massive and concerted efforts by the Oak Park police department.

"It was awesome," she said simply of the immediate response by police. "I don't want to get into details (of the incident), but they did a wonderful job."

Indeed, the disappearance of the 4 foot, 7 inch, 67 pound sixth grader set off an intense series of responses by local cops. Assisted by Julian staff, officers searched the school thoroughly at least twice, according to Scianna. The neighborhood around Percy Julian, at the corner of Ridgeland Avenue and Washington Boulevard was also searched twice.

Meanwhile officers fanned out throughout the village, going up and down commercial thoroughfares such as Madison Street, Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street, distributing fliers with Curtis's description to over 150 stores and businesses. Fliers were seen as far east as Central Avenue in Austin.

Curtis, meanwhile, had caught a Green Line train to Downtown Chicago soon after being dropped off at school. After wandering around the downtown area for a while, he then caught a South Shore train to the South Side.

"He had a plan, and he executed the plan," said Scianna.

That plan was to retrace the route he'd seen his mom take to his grandmother's home on the South Side. Unfortunately for Curtis, he travels by familiar landmarks, rather than street addresses, and was unable to locate his grandmother's house. He ended up by the lakefront about two blocks south of the 63rd Street Beach off Lake Shore Drive instead.

Around 7 p.m. Curtis's parents were being interviewed at length by police officials, while half a dozen friends and relatives, including his grandfather, waited in the police department foyer, several in tears. Thankfully, right about that time Curtis was being noticed by a Chicago Park District worker, who asked him what he was doing in the park area, which was closed after sunset. The worker took Curtis to the 3rd District police station, where he was held until Oak Park police arrived to take him home.

Scianna expressed both satisfaction about the happy ending, as well as appreciation for the electronic media Friday. Chicago's TV and radio stations, he said, responded "overwhelmingly" to his department's request for assistance.

"We'd done everything we could, and we needed to get his picture out there now," he recalled. "We contacted (television and radio stations) at 3:30, and by 4 p.m., it was on the air," he said.

Besides notices on early television newscasts, Scianna spoke live on several radio stations, including urban radio giant WGCI, giving a description of Briscoe to listeners.

Curtis's daunting day trip also attracted the attention of more than just local law enforcement and media. Though Scianna noted that the boy's situation didn't meet the standards for a national Amber Alert, since foul play was not suspected, notice of his disappearance did in fact some how show up on an Amber Alert web site at one point, as well as on the Angelsmissing.com web site.
CONTACT: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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