By Mike Whittlesey
Thank you, Chris.
Thank you, Tony.
As the public faces of the investigation into the disappearance of 16 year old Jake Wilson, La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher and Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson each had unique circumstances that challenged the work and the departments they led during the search for Jake over the past four months.
Appointed as the City’s first new Chief of Police in more than 30 years on March 26, Brecher had no way of knowing his first month on the job would include a missing person’s case that would quickly become headline news throughout the state. The mystery was equally challenging for Sheriff Thompson, as Jake’s case drew comparisons, fair or not, to the still unsolved abduction and murders of Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook from Evansdale in 2011.
Throughout the search for Jake and the investigation that accompanied it, Brecher and Thompson responded to the pressures of the situation exactly as we would hope all law enforcement professionals would- in an honest, forthright and compassionate way.
Both men would be the first to say how much help they have had from others along the way. And beginning on that fateful Sunday morning, when more than 800 volunteers turned out to look for Jake, what an incredible response it has been. The call to action from professional agencies and the contributions from individuals and businesses, near and far, was simply staggering.
At a time in our nation’s history when the actions of police officers are so often called into question, the La Porte City community and greater Black Hawk County can be thankful that law enforcement in our little corner of the world is synonymous with determination, integrity and character of the highest order.
The search for Jake certainly did not result in the outcome we wanted. But it did teach us a valuable lesson about what can be accomplished when communities come together for all the right reasons. Thank you, Jake.
“What a neat young man,” Sheriff Thompson said, reflecting on the special person whose life has touched so many others.
“And if the legacy is that if he, in a really unfortunate set of circumstances, has done a tremendous job of bringing this community together, then that’s a lasting legacy of something to be proud of, too,” he added.
Editor’s Note: In response to a request, Black Hawk County Emergency Management provided the following list of contributors who generously participated in some way during the effort to bring Jake home. While it cannot represent a comprehensive accounting of everyone who invested their time and energy to search for Jake, it nonetheless illustrates the vast, determined effort from so many to bring him home to his family.
Teams: American Red Cross, Iowa Task Force One, State Incident Management Team – Iowa Homeland Security, Christian Aid Ministries- Illinois, Dubuque Dive Team, Johnson County Dive Team, Search Dogs, Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Emergency Managers: Lorie Glover, Black Hawk County; Kip Ladage, Bremer County; Sean Snyder, Winneshiek County; Darrell Knecht, Howard County; AJ Seeley, Chickasaw County; Brenda Leonard, Jones County; Scott Hansen, Benton County; Lisa Roberts, Fayette County; Mindy Benson, Tama County; Brad Ransford, Linn County; Tom Ulrich, Linn County; Maureen Mehmen, Black Hawk County; Tom Berger, Dubuque County; Dave Wilson, Johnson County; Travis Beckman, Johnson County; Steve O’Koneck, Linn County; Jason Wickhizer, Shelby County; Josh Humphrey, Iowa County.
Fire Departments: La Porte City, Evansdale, Fayette, Cedar Falls, Dubuque, Raymond, Decorah, Gilbertville, Asbury, Dunkerton, Garrison, Hudson, Vinton, Decorah, Shellsburg
Law Enforcement: La Porte City, Black Hawk County Sheriff Dept., Cedar Falls, Evansdale, Hudson, Dunkerton, Waterloo, Iowa State Patrol, FBI
Donations: Black Hawk County Road Dept., Casey’s, Cavalier Car Wash, Chick-Fil-A, Coca Cola, Famous Daves, ECI Co-op (La Porte City), Hy-Vee #3, Kramer Sausage, La Porte City Golf Club, La Porte City Specialty Care, Olive Garden, Panera, Perkins, Pizza Palace, Randall’s Stop n Shop, Rocket’s Bakery, Royce Rottinghaus (Tables and Chairs), Scheels Cedar Falls, Scratch Cupcakes, Spahn and Rose – Jesup, Subway, Texas Roadhouse, Thriftway, Tootsies Ice Cream and More, Tysons, USS Polaris, Verizon.
All donations that were anonymous and private citizens.