Dallas Police

Search for Missing SMU Officer Swept into Turtle Creek is Now a Recovery Operation: Dallas Fire-Rescue

Officer's car found submerged downstream; officer still missing, presumed dead

Authorities will continue the search for a missing Southern Methodist University campus police officer who reported being trapped in high water near Turtle Creek early Tuesday morning.[[385521431,C]]

The officer, whose name has not yet been released, was working security detail in the 3700 block of North Fitzhugh Avenue at 1:39 a.m. when he called to report water above the hood of his car.

After searching for him for more than eight hours overnight, fire officials said Tuesday morning the search and rescue mission was now a recovery effort and that the officer was presumed dead.

Trained search and rescue dogs are being used in the effort to locate the man's body.

Authorities search for a missing SMU campus police officer reportedly trapped in high water early Tuesday morning.

Overnight Tuesday, surveillance video in the area recorded the man's vehicle on the Fitzhugh Avenue bridge being swept into the creek. While the footage is grainy, it appears the man opened the door and exited the vehicle before the car was swept downstream.

Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Chief Vernon Hale tweeted that a white car found submerged in the creek matches the description of the officer's vehicle; police later confirmed that the vehicle was the officer's but his whereabouts remained a mystery.

Firefighters and first responders focused their search efforts along Turtle Creek Boulevard between Blackburn and Avondale. Rescue crews have also followed the creek as far down as the Trinity River in an effort to locate the victim's body.

Police said at about 1:45 a.m. Tuesday, the still-unidentified officer called straight to Highland Park police, saying he was working an off-duty private security job keeping watch at a construction site near Fitzhugh and Saint John’s.

He reported that the fast-rising water near Turtle Creek was starting to roll over his car, and his car was moving. Police say once dispatchers told this man that help was on the way, he disconnected the call.

“The officer on the phone with our dispatch in describing the situation remained very calm, very cool. He gave us a good description of what was happening, and then disconnected the phone call once our apparatus was sent to his location,” said Lt Lance Koppa with Highland Park DPS.

“We’re not sure if this officer was in plain-clothes or uniform. We sent everything that we had to help him,” Koppa said.

Emergency crews arrived quickly, but there were two main problems they ran into on scene.

“One of the challenges was that when our search crews got out here was that the water level was extremely high. So that limits the visual field and it limits the depth that we can reach, physically. So we had people along the banks, also trying to conduct searches,” said DFR’s Jason Evans.

“The responding officers indicated by radio that they had not seen water that high in a very very long time, sounds like the water came up very quickly and rapidly,” Lt Koppa added.

Because the man may have exited the vehicle, police do not believe he may be found in his car.

Dallas firefighters say they’re searching for at least one person who was swept into Turtle Creek after being caught in high water early Tuesday morning.

A statement Tuesday from SMU police says they’re aware of this tragic situation and helping with the search. SMU Police Chief Richard Shafer said the officer was working an off-duty job as private security at the time.

“SMU police are offering support to the search and rescue effort being mounted by Dallas Fire-Rescue. We thank neighboring police and fire departments and rescue crews for their ongoing efforts," Shafer said. "Respecting the sensitivity of family members, first, we will share more information as it becomes available. Our prayers and thoughts are with the officer’s family members and other loved ones as the search continues."

NBC 5's Jeff Smith and Chris Van Horne contributed to this report.

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