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Drones, specialized unit find missing Medina County man in woods

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Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 19:38:18-05

LODI, Ohio — A specialized Medina County unit, trained to find missing people, used drones and cell phone pings to locate a Lodi resident in the middle of the night.

CART, or Child Abduction Response Team, was activated around 10 p.m. Tuesday night after a 31-year-old man failed to return to the group home where he lives.

CART, which is comprised of officers throughout the county, is used when a person — regardless of age — is missing and could be in danger.

On Tuesday evening, Lodi police were notified that a resident of a group home on Redfield Street left the building around 3 p.m. He was expected back at 9 p.m. but didn't show up. There was concern because the man hadn't taken his medication.

"We're looking at the worst-case scenario. If he hasn't taken his medication, we would consider him to be an endangered adult," said Lodi Police Chief Keith Keough.

Lodi police notified the Medina County Sheriff's Office, which operates CART, and a team of 10 to 15 officers were called in and staged at the Lodi Police Department.

"When we get there, we try to get one team out of maybe four or five people. It's like a hasty response team," said Captain Kevin Ross from the Medina County Sheriff's Office.

The four-hour search included first responders on foot and looking from their cruisers. Two drones were also sent into the night air.

Officers tried calling the man's phone with no success. A detective texted the phone and got a concerning response about an hour later.

"He responded, 'I'm okay, but I'm cold and I don't know where I'm at.' He kind of described that he was in a wooded area and it was pitch black," Ross said.

CART members, who had been working with the man's cell phone carrier to ping the device's location, also told the man to call 911 to help narrow down his location.

That led the officers to a wooded location beyond a cornfield about a mile-and-a-half from his home.

Drone video, provided to News 5, shows the officer locate the man around 3 a.m. and walk him to a cruiser to get warm.

"We were lucky also because he was getting to the point where he was getting colder as the night went on," Ross said.

The man was taken to Lodi Community Hospital as a precaution. He did not have any injuries, according to Keough.

Medina County has used CART about five times in the past year, locating missing teens and senior citizens.

"It's really one of the best tools that we have when it comes to locating people," Keough said.

Ross said there are only a handful of CART teams in Northeast Ohio and stressed everyone involved in finding the missing man early Wednesday morning was relieved there was a happy ending.

"It's a great collaboration of several different departments in Medina County to get together and search and try to find these individuals that are missing," Ross said.