Prince George's County police yesterday defended the way they handled the missing person report filed by the parents of a Glenn Dale teenager who was later found shot to death in his car in Northeast Washington.
The investigation into the report filed Thursday night by Mohamed Elmaghraby's family was handled appropriately, said Cpl. Debbie Carlson, a police spokeswoman.
Because the 18-year-old did not have any health problems and left his home of his own accord with no indication of foul play, police could not classify the report as a "critical missing person" case, Carlson said.
"We certainly understand the family's upset," Carlson said. "You can't call out the helicopters and the bloodhounds for an adult who leaves on his own."
Maher Elmaghraby, the teenager's father, has said in interviews that Prince George's police did not take seriously his effort to report Mohamed's disappearance. An officer who came to his home said Mohamed could have been in California smoking dope, Elmaghraby said yesterday.
Elmaghraby said he called Prince George's police again Friday to report Mohamed's car as stolen, hoping that would spur action. He said an officer told him that reporting the car as stolen could lead to his son getting a police record.
Cpl. Kim Brown, another Prince George's police spokeswoman, said there is no typical response to a missing person report. It depends on a number of circumstances, such as whether the missing person is an adult, whether the person has ever left home before without telling anyone and whether there is evidence of foul play, she said.
Depending on the circumstances, she said, police may check hospitals, interview friends and associates of the missing person or conduct a canvass of the neighborhood where the person was last seen.
Frustrated by what the family perceived as a lack of interest by police, Maher Elmaghraby, his wife, Jessie, his wife's sister and the sister's husband drove around the District on Saturday looking for Mohamed or his car. They found the 1998 Cadillac in the 4700 block of Nash Street NE, near the Deanwood Metro station.
Elmaghraby said he and other members of the search party were afraid to touch the car or look through its tinted window, so they called D.C. police. An officer opened the car door and found the teenager's body; he had been shot to death.
Elmaghraby said his son's keys and cell phone were missing.
Carlson said a Prince George's detective also drove to the scene when someone in the search party called to tell him that Mohamed's car had been found.
"They were told not to touch the car. We responded; the D.C. police got there before we did," Carlson said.
Capt. C.V. Morris, head of the District homicide squad, said the teenager died of a gunshot wound to the head. Detectives were investigating the possibility that he had been shot by another occupant of the car, Morris said.
Elmaghraby spent much of yesterday making preparations for his son's funeral, to be held today in a mosque in Lanham where Mohamed joined his family every Friday to worship, relatives said.
"He prays every day," said Jessie Elmaghraby, who still spoke of her son in the present tense.
Mohamed left home about 1 p.m. Thursday to meet a friend in Greenbelt, she said. Shortly after that, he spoke with his father on his cell phone, relatives said. Mohamed told his father he was "chilling" with his friend, Jessie Elmaghraby said.
When relatives tried to call Mohamed about an hour later, he did not answer, she said.
Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.