Even though 4-year-old Rebecca Lewis of Lakeland was found safe Monday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd was furious that at least one other state didn't help sooner. Judd says Lewis could have been reunited with her parents quicker with more cooperation.
We have issued a statewide AMBER Alert, after a verified sighting of Rebecca Lewis and West Hogs shortly before 2:30 CST this morning in the Nashville area, of which we became aware at approximately 9:30 CST this morning.
Early Sunday morning, we received a phone call from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, asking our agency to issue an AMBER Alert in connection to this case, which was apparently part of an effort to encourage states across the southeast to do the same. We indicated that since there was no specific information the child was in Tennessee at the time that we were not able to issue an AMBER Alert. We did, however, agree to issue a BOLO (Be-On-The-Lookout) for law enforcement, which we did immediately.
Early Monday morning, immediately after receiving information about a possible sighting of Rebecca Lewis in Campbell County, we set about utilizing our established processes to expand the reach of Florida's AMBER Alert, specifically in East Tennessee. That notification included interstate signage, social media, website (www.tn.gov/tbi), and secondary notifications - such as cell phone alerts - offered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
As mentioned above, the situation escalated in Tennessee when authorities verified use of a bank card connected to Hogs in the Nashville area this morning. Tennessee issues AMBER Alerts regionally (East, Middle, & West) and has activated in all three regions in this instance out of an abundance of caution. Our intention is to reserve AMBER Alerts for verified sightings and specific, actionable information that might result in the successful recovery of missing children determined to be in imminent danger. We would urge anyone who happens to see Lewis or Hogs - or the vehicle in which they may be traveling - to contact 911 immediately.
We are confident we have done everything possible - within the bounds of our established policies and practices - to assist authorities in Florida, given the information available to us throughout this event. We remain in constant contact with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and stand prepared to assist in any way as this ongoing search effort continues.
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