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Civilian search of concern to police

By: Christina Waldner

  |  Posted: Friday, Jul 18, 2014 10:33 am

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  • Approximately 75 people turned up to volunteer to search the local area on July 16 for any trace of Nathan O'Brien or his grandparents.
    Approximately 75 people turned up to volunteer to search the local area on July 16 for any trace of Nathan O'Brien or his grandparents.
    Christina Waldner/Rocky View Publishing
  • Organizers sign in a few of the volunteers who turned up to help in the search for Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents on July 16.
    Organizers sign in a few of the volunteers who turned up to help in the search for Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents on July 16.
    Christina Waldner/Rocky View Publishing
  • Volunteers gather to assist in the search for any sign of Nathan O'Brien or his grandparents on July 16.
    Volunteers gather to assist in the search for any sign of Nathan O'Brien or his grandparents on July 16.
    Christina Waldner/Rocky View Publishing

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The Calgary Police Service (CPS) has made it clear officers would prefer the public show their support for the Liknes and O’Brien families in a way other than organizing searches of public property.

CPS issued a statement on July 17 clarifying their position.

“Investigators have a 30-day search plan in effect that is intelligence driven, which cannot be shared outside of law enforcement in order to protect the integrity of the investigation. We are systematically searching locations that have a high likelihood of locating evidence utilizing officers from the CPS, RCMP and provincially sanctioned civilian search organizations. The Service has and will continue to dedicate as many resources as necessary to complete what has become a highly sensitive, and complex, investigation.

“At this time, we do not require assistance from the public in relation to searching public property, however we appreciate the outpouring of community support.”

As they have from the beginning of the investigation, CPS asked rural property and business owners to search their own land for anything suspicious.

The statement was issued after confusion arose on social media around a group organizing searches in Airdrie.

On July 16, approximately 75 people gathered at the 2nd Scout Hall on East Lake Road intending to head out to search local ditches and roadways. Organizers announced they would be shutting down the Facebook group they had started two days earlier after receiving what they called negative comments about their search efforts on social media, however, some of those at the Scout Hall said they’d still be heading out to search. At press time, they were not available for comment as to whether they would continue in light of the statement released by CPS.

Not everyone on the Facebook group was supportive of the civilian search. Kayla Jessen is an Airdrie mom who has been uncomfortable with the idea of a search by anyone other than the police from the beginning.

“I think that CPS has made it pretty clear (on their social media) that they don’t want people searching anything except their own property,” said Jessen. “I understand the intent. I’m a mom, too, and I understand that need to do something or feeling like you need to do something, but people need to remember it’s not about us. It’s about the family and it’s about getting justice for what happened.”

Jessen, who works in the legal field but is prohibited from saying what her role is for confidentiality reasons, on July 16 encouraged other members of the Facebook group and the administrators to reconsider doing their own search.

“There’s a process that CPS is following and they hold their cards really close to their vest. They do that for a reason. This is an ongoing investigation and we cannot interfere with that. I can’t imagine what that family is going through, but I also cannot imagine doing something that could potentially harm the investigation and mean that whoever is responsible walks away.”

Jessen said she supports people showing their support for the families in other ways.

Donations to the O’Brien Family Trust can be made at any ATB Financial branch including the two in Airdrie. The Nose Creek Valley Museum is also selling green ribbons for people to wear to show their support. Green is the universally recognized colour to remember missing children. The Airdrie Mom’s Facebook group is holding a fundraiser for the O’Brien and Liknes families at the Ramada on East Lake Crescent on Saturday, July 19.


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