James Kokulo Fasuekoi, North Minneapolis, Minn. – Hennepin County and Crystal Police here appear to be closed to cracking the mysteries surrounding the missing Liberian 10 year-old boy. Law enforcement and medical examiners are trying to find out whether or not the body of a teenager found along the Mississippi River, near Minneapolis, Minn., last evening could be that of Barway Collins who has been missing for weeks.
Police would not give details of yesterday’s discovery but said they were awaiting result from medical examiners before making further statement on the matter. As midnight approached they were still continuing their investigation and announced the search for Barway will continue in the meantime. With exactly three weeks into the search and with no clue regarding Barway’s whereabouts, the case has now apparently shifted from the “Endangered” zone earlier, to a “Homicide” category.
A video footage of Barway’s school bus on March 18, showed him telling a friend “That’s my father…there comes my uncle.” Moments after he was dropped off by the bus, Cedarwood Apartment complex video recording again showed the 4th grader approached the main entrance but suddenly turned away. That was the last time he was seen.
Yesterday’s discovery of a body was made by a community search teams that comprised Liberians and a group of missing person volunteers who mounted vigorous searches along the Mississippi River, south of Highway 694. Police said they picked up the body about 20 feet off the shore of the Mississippi River near North Mississippi Regional Park just several miles north of downtown Minneapolis. It is also the same location law enforcement detectives’ investigation had placed Barway’s father, Pierre Collins, few hours following the boy’s disappearance.
Days after the boy went missing, Crystal Police chief Stephanie Revering declared Pierre Collins a “Suspect” while also considering the person Barway referred to as his “Uncle” as a person of interest. They appealed to the public to help with any information leading to the individual’s arrest.
But Pierre Collins has since denied any involvement, saying it is uncultured in his country of origin (Liberia) to have a father murder his son. The latest discovery seems to further increase police suspicion that Mr. Collins may still be a prime suspect in his son’s disappearance.
Upon receiving tip-off, police quickly moved in and condoned the entire area of the park where the body was found in preparation for removal. Soon afterwards hospital and Police ambulances arrived to the scene, followed by an army of news crews from various broadcast and prints outlets in the Metro area. As TV broadcast stations mounted Seattleite dishes in anticipation of breaking the news of the discovery, journalists within the Liberian community here that had been part of the on-going search for the missing boy also assembled at the scene.
Law enforcement officers managed to keep both members of the media and spectators beyond the Police crime scene tape-line while a Police patrol vehicle moved and strategically blocked the only view left to the mass media and curious bystanders. Meanwhile, a news helicopter crew circled overhead filming the entire scene.
Few Liberian women at the scene were seen weeping as Police carried what appeared to be a body on a stretcher. “Oh God! This could be my son oh…,” one Liberian middle age woman shouted, attracting television cameramen and news photographers.
Police haven’t yet charged Mr. Collins but the Crystal Police Department has placed two officers on guard at the entrance of the Cerdarwood Apartment where the family of Barway lives as a way to protect them and also monitor Mr. Collins’ movement.
Yesterday search brought together closed to 200 neighborhood volunteers who were divided into four groups to search the Brooklyn Park, New Hope, Crystal and Brooklyn Center areas, three sister cities adjacent to Minneapolis.
This reporter-photographer joined the Brooklyn Center group that included Barway’s father Pierre Collins and stepmother. The team was then divided into two with one headed northbound while the other turned southward along the Mississippi. The East side of the river banks had been previously searched but no results yielded and that caused volunteers to focus on the West bank side yesterday.
Weeks since Barway Collins got missing; Police offered the sum of $12,000.00 award for anyone with information that would lead to finding Barway, or the arrest of any person associated with his missing. Crystal Police also enlisted the help of FBI agents as well as dogs of the Police K-9 unit which were used to try to trace scents of the boy after he went missing.
In order to keep the momentum ongoing in addition to the weekly searches, Police and community advocates also placed announcement of the $12,000.00 reward on huge billboards along city-states highways and strategic parts of the Minneapolis Metro areas.