A Montgomery County Police spokesman said police should have taken a missing person’s report when the father of a deceased 17-year-old Walt Whitman High School student first contacted them with concerns about his missing son who later turned up dead.
“Based on circumstances presented to us, a report could have been and probably should have been taken by a police officer at that point,” Montgomery County Police Spokesman Capt. Paul Starks said.
The father of Navid Sepehri said he gave police the location of his son’s cell phone when he first contacted them at 3:30 a.m. Sunday, but Starks says police did not note Sepehri as missing until the afternoon.
“It’s under investigation,” Starks said.
Saturday evening, according to police reports, officers encountered Navid at a party he attended with friends on Elgin Lane in Bethesda where police suspected underage drinking after responding to a call from concerned neighbors.
The parents hosting the party told police that kids who were uninvited to the party came to their house and brought alcohol in, Starks said.
Navid, along with several other friends, was stopped by police as they were standing in the street outside the house apparently waiting for rides home.
According to a police statement, Navid was reportedly “under the influence,” but did not have alcohol on him.
Starks said after a discussion with police Navid’s friends said they would take care of Navid.
A short time later they were apparently seen at a nearby 7-11 before Navid disappeared. His father said he contacted police more than five hours later after Navid failed to return home.
However, police did not list the boy as missing until 12:46 p.m. Sunday afternoon after Sepehri again contacted police. A coordinated search ensued in a heavily wooded area – and according to Starks the search was also hampered by the weather.
“I can tell you that requests were made to two other law enforcement agencies for a helicopter and they declined to fly that day based on the circumstances [of the weather]. A bloodhound did a search using an article of clothing,” Starks said. “Ultimately using information from Navid’s cell phone provided to us . . . he was located at 4:58 p.m., I believe by the father, but there were officers in the woods. One reported Navid’s father exclaimed something and he was able to run in that direction to assist Navid’s father.”
“I started yelling and shouting and a neighbor heard me,” Sepehri said.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has ruled that Sepehri died of acute alcohol intoxication complicated by drowning and hypothermia, according to Montgomery County Police. The death has been ruled an accident.
While the investigation remains open, police say there is no indication of foul play involving Sepehri’s death.
Sepehri’s mother said she wants to know why police didn’t act when they first came in to contact with him at the party in Bethesda.
“Police didn’t protect my son,” his mother said. Why they didn’t call me and say your son is not safe. Why did they not let kids stay in the house? It was so cold, and they knew there had been drink. He wasn’t safe. He wasn’t himself. I’m so, so sad. I cannot live with it.”
Anyone with information is urged to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070.