Elected officials, the 72nd Precinct, and Sunset Park residents are asking for help in finding a local man with dementia.
Jose Manuel Santiago, 67, who goes by the nickname “Che,” was last seen Tuesday, July 10 near his apartment on 41st Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues at around 8:45 a.m.
On Friday, July 13, Deputy Inspector and Commanding Officer of the 72nd Precinct Emmanuel Gonzalez was joined by Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, the family of Santiago — who is also diabetic — and others outside his apartment to ask the public for help.
“We’ve instituted a Silver Alert, which is similar to an Amber Alert, where various news outlets, notification and message boards, NYPD social media [outlets] and other agencies are notified in regards to this missing person case,” Gonzalez told this paper. “All assets of the police department are being used, such as aviation, harbor and transit. Everything that the NYPD has is being used to search for this individual.”
Gonzalez added that later Friday, the 72 would be setting up a headquarters at the precinct to add to their efforts in finding Santiago.
“We’ve done this several times already in regards to setting up a headquarters, documenting where we’ve searched, who we spoke to and the areas and places we’ve gone to,” he said. “We’re going to do things all over again. Regardless of if we’ve been there, we’re going to go there again. If we made phone calls before, we’re going to call those same people again.”
The precinct did receive a report that he was seen walking around.
“He’s a little confused,” the CO added. “He may see his poster on a tree and may not understand it. If you see that, call 911. We are reaching out to hospitals or anywhere else he might be. We’ve been doing it since Tuesday, and we’re doing it again.”
Jose’s sister Maria Santiago was inside the apartment when he went missing and blames ambulance operators for his disappearance.
“His daughter called an ambulance because he wasn’t eating, and he didn’t get up from his bed,” she said. “They called the ambulance and I am blaming the ambulance service. They took him out to go to the ambulance. I went inside to get dressed to leave with them. When I went outside to look for him, the ambulance people let him go get a coffee — knowing he had dementia.
“I was going crazy and started running,” she went on.
A translator assisting the sister said ambulance operators “told her that he was gone and she went out of her mind.”
“He walked towards 40th street,” the translator said of Santiago, adding that the family hopes to gain access to security footage from a nearby bakery. “That’s the only camera that may show where he went.”
Ortiz also ensured his help in the case.
“I want to thank the 72nd precinct for ensuring that Jose can be found,” he said. ‘We hope that through the media, you guys can make sure we can find Jose and bring him home. This is the second person we have missing.”
The first, he said, is a young girl who is still missing.
“We hope to find her and to find her safe just as we hope we will find Jose,” he said. “We will continue to do this in the days ahead. I’m sorry for what is happening here today but we are working hard with the 72nd precinct, Community Board 7 and the community board to make sure we are successful in finding them.”
Friend of the family Rosie Velez discussed the need for community involvement.
“We are trying to get volunteers,” she said. “This is what the community needs. There’s no politics here. This is about feelings and this is what we need — people that care. We need volunteers.”
Gonzalez added that when a situation is this important, a press conference is common practice.
“When it gets to this urgency, yes,” he responded. “The gentleman has dementia, and this is a diabetic situation where he needs his medicine. This is normal procedure of this type of medical issue. We’re in dire straits. We are urgently seeking this individual before he needs his insulin and gets sick.”
Santiago is described as a male Hispanic, standing at around 5’8” and weighing approximately 140 pounds. He has green eyes, walks with a limp and was last seen wearing a navy blue polo style shirt, light blue jeans and grey Sketcher sneakers.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577.
All calls are strictly confidential.