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Missing Officer Found in Victorville : Mystery: Massive hunt conducted for Bell Gardens policeman after he misses roll call. He is spotted walking down street 12 hours later.

June 16, 1990|AMY PYLE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mounted police and other officers searched Friday for a veteran Bell Gardens police officer who was last seen walking toward the Mojave Desert after driving himself to Victorville in a city patrol car.

Officer David Larimore, 35, came in early to work Friday morning, changed into his dark blue uniform, hopped into his patrol car and left, Bell Gardens Police Chief William Donohoe said.

He missed a 7 a.m. roll call, which surprised his colleagues. When they were unable to reach the 11-year veteran on his radio by 8 a.m., they reported him missing to surrounding law enforcement agencies. Long Beach police were asked to check his Long Beach residence.

His white car, bearing a Bell Gardens police insignia, was found abandoned shortly before noon in a vacant lot in the desert town of Victorville, more than 100 miles away. The doors were locked. Inside were his keys, uniform shirt, police identification, driver's license and gun, Victorville police reported.

One caller, who had heard radio broadcasts about the missing officer, told Victorville police he had seen a man wearing uniform-style pants and a white T-shirt walking away from the car and toward the dry bed of the Mojave River.

Larimore's disappearance stunned his fellow officers and his wife, Donohoe said.

Donohoe said none of his 50 colleagues or other friends who were interviewed Friday recalled any erratic behavior, problems or depression that might explain the disappearance.

"It's as much of a mystery to them as it is to us. . . . We are hopeful it is something that can be explained," Donohoe said.

In Victorville, local police officers went door to door Friday afternoon questioning business owners and residents. But no one matching Larimore's description had been seen, community service officer Denise Garland said.

In the afternoon, 30 members of mounted posses from nearby law enforcement agencies began scouring thea riverbed area.

The search was expected to continue until nightfall and then resume this morning, Garland said. It would not have taken Larimore long to get out into rough terrain, she Garland said, because Victorville is surrounded by desert and mountains.

During the daytime, the cool weather would have worked in Larimore's favor, said San Bernardino crime prevention officer Deborah Reagan, but at night temperatures were expected to drop below 50 degrees.

"Somebody out there on foot is going to get very cold," Garland said.

However, Reagan said the San Bernardino sheriff's office has extensive experience recovering lost people--often hunters and motorcyclists from Los Angeles, whom they call "flatlanders."

"The desert can be real strange at times, especially to flatlanders," she said. "But we usually find them pretty fast."

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