A 27-year-old Lakota man in Colorado went missing a day before the state's new Missing Indigenous Person Alerts system was launched. He was found dead a week later.
It took four days after the system was activated for the state to issue a Missing Indigenous Person Alert for Wanbli Vigil. It was reported that Vigil had been declared missing on Jan. 1 after he had last been seen in Denver on Dec. 29. CBS Colorado reported that his case was the first to activate the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's statewide alert system.
"Once notified, the Denver Police Department's Missing Persons Unit opened a missing persons case and entered Mr. Vigil as a missing person in NCIC [National Crime Information Center], per standard procedure," Denver police told CBS News. "The Colorado Bureau of Investigations released the alert on Tuesday based on their protocols."
However, the alert system was too late. The Denver police announced that his body had been found on Jan. 6. Although the department is investigating, it said does "not appear to be suspicious in nature at this time."
Before the discovery of Vigil's body, his aunt told CBS Colorado that the family had organized a search party to look for him. The search party checked jails, hospitals, and "whatever leads we can think of." He was last seen at his apartment building.
"He was really struggling with some spiritual issues," she told the CBS station. "We're wondering exactly where did he go, how did he disappear, where did he end up or who is he with?"
Even though Vigil's cause of death is unknown at this time, Indigenous advocates contend that the alert took too long to get out to the public.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation told CBS News it did not activate the missing person alert until January 3 after receiving a request from Denver Police, even though the alert system was activated just one day after he went missing. It was not until the same day that Denver police posted anything on their social media pages.
According to CBS Colorado, Haseya Advocate Program director Monycka Snowbird believes that the year-end holidays are responsible for the delay, adding that if it had been an Amber Alert, the holidays "wouldn't have mattered."
Regardless of how Wanbli Vigil passed away, his death could have possibly been prevented if Denver authorities acted on his disappearance as soon as it was reported by his family. Indigenous lives are made intentionally vulnerable in America, and there needs to be more effort put into their protection.
Source: CBS News