CPD officer says it was a miracle a kidnapped teen from Indiana was found
The Chattanooga police officer who helped find a kidnapped teenager from Indiana says he did not know the teen was reported missing.
Indiana State Police issued a Silver Alert for 14-year-old Shayden Howard on May 16. That alert mentioned Howard could be with an adult white man, and that he was believed to be in extreme danger.
Officer Jason Clemons says he found Howard at a park intoxicated with 37-year-old Larry Taylor and 51-year-old Charles Pope.
On May 20, Clemons says he and another officer were following up on a burglary at Choo Choo Barbecue on Appling Street.
“They had surveillance footage that showed a couple of parties that were kind of hanging out around the back of the store for several hours during a couple of different days,” Clemons said.
In an affidavit, Clemons said he saw a “young white male” in the surveillance video wearing a “black shirt and green hat.” He says the young man was Howard.
Around 11:45, Clemons spotted Howard at Riverside Park, which is less than a mile away from the barbecue restaurant, with Taylor and Pope. The arrest affidavit says they were drinking beer. When he approached them, Clemons says Howard used a fake name.
“When we talked to them and spoke with them we could smell an odor of an intoxicating beverage coming off of their breaths,” Clemons said.
Clemons says Taylor and Howard told him they were father and son, but something seemed off.
“Their stories just weren't matching up as far as how they got to Chattanooga from where they were coming from [and] what they were doing in Indiana before coming to Chattanooga. Nothing was really adding up.”
During an interview with police, Taylor and Howard said they came to Chattanooga by jumping a train. It’s not clear why they came to Chattanooga.
Channel 3 reached out Indiana State Police. A spokesperson tells us it's not clear if Taylor and Howard knew each other. They confirmed Howard was kidnapped, but are trying to determine how it happened.
Clemons says as he had no clue Taylor was wanted for kidnapping Howard until he reached out to the agency trying to learn more about Taylor's past.
“We got the ball rolling but it was really the juvenile court system and all the investigation that followed up with that that really led this to a happy conclusion,” Clemons said. “God really put us in the where we were supposed to be in order to really statistically speaking cause a miracle to happen.”
Howard is home safe with his family.
We reached out to his public defender attorney, Christopher Coder, for comment on the case and Howard’s perspective, but have not heard back.
Taylor and Pope pleaded guilty to public intoxication. Taylor is now waiting to be transferred back to Indiana, where he faces a level six kidnapping charge. We’re told he could face more charges.