Amidst the events surrounding the disappearance of University of Portland Student Owen Klinger, Joe Schilling, Campus Public Safety Office’s interim chief of police, detailed what would happen if something similar occurred on Portland State campus.
According to Schilling, if a Portland State student is reported missing, CPSO’s policy is to begin investigating the student immediately. He said other agencies may have a 24-hour-wait period for students or persons over the age of 18.
“The policy on our campus is that we go ahead and start the investigation immediately,” Schilling said. “And that might look different depending upon what the circumstances are…We’d do a little investigation, check out the dorm room or where they live around the city, and try to get some information that way to start the investigation.”
If the student is still not found, however, CPSO would then reach out to Portland Police Bureau, who would be able to provide greater resources in finding missing persons.
The best way to prevent missing persons cases, he said, is for students to look out for one another, and keep in touch when leaving for an extended period of time.
“It’s often said, and it really is true, that the safety of each individual is really the responsibility of the community.” Schilling said, “So when everybody pulls together, we have a better opportunity to stay on top of things.”
Disappearance of Owen Klinger
University of Portland student Owen Klinger was last seen leaving his dorm at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 6. He was reported missing after going more than a day without contacting loved ones—which was unusual for Klinger, according to UP.
After the PPB launched their official investigation, word of Klinger’s disappearance spread quickly throughout the city, and eventually to Portland State, as well. News outlets such as The Oregonian and KVAL reported on when the student first went missing, and continued following the story afterward.
Flyers were posted around both UP and PSU campuses, and regular searches were held throughout the Portland area, composed of multiple search parties, family and friends, and community members, in an effort to find Klinger. An Instagram account, @findowenk, was also created to help search efforts.
PPB released an early theory on Oct. 13 that Klinger had purposefully left the Portland area after watching videos about hopping freight trains, shutting off his cell phone on the night he disappeared, withdrawing money from an ATM and saying that he was attending a team meeting when there was none scheduled, according to a news release from the PPB.
His parents, however, disputed the theory. According to OPB, Kinger’s mother, Mary Klinger, stated, “It doesn’t make sense. He’s a practical kid…If he had a dream in his heart to go adventure somewhere, we would have talked about it more. He would have made a plan, gotten more of his money, gotten more stuff, gotten a buddy. He wouldn’t have gone on his own without telling us, breaking all our hearts.”
In all states and territories, there are currently 16,865 open cases of missing persons, and according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs. 600,000 people go missing every year.
Another missing persons case was opened in Oregon on Oct. 10. Doug Faoa, a foster child from Albany, was reported missing after arriving at the Inn Home for Boys in Clackamas County, a living facility to help boys with emotional issues. He was reported to the Department of Human Services (DHS) the next day.
However, his foster mother, Carol Palmer, was concerned that not enough was being done. No major media outlets reported on his case when it first occurred, according to OPB, in stark contrast to Klinger’s case.
Two weeks since Klinger was last seen, PPB responded to a report on Sunday, Oct. 20, of a body found in the Willamette river—which they recovered and gave to the medical examiner’s office. After hearing about the report, Klinger’s parents released a statement, believing that the body found was of their son.
“Portland police have notified us that they have recovered a body that we believe is our son, Owen Klinger.”
The statement read, “We deeply appreciate the extraordinary effort and support that thousands of people have provided over the past two weeks. We now ask for privacy as we move forward with our healing process.”
PPB confirmed on Oct. 22 that the body found was Klinger—however, a cause of death has not yet been released. UP held a public funeral for Klinger on their campus on Oct. 30.