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Family of Riley Strain calls for volunteers to join United Cajun Navy's search efforts

Six columns stand outside of Jessie Hall at the University of Missouri. It is dark outside so the columns are lit up by lights on the ground.
Austin Anderson
MU Faculty shows support for those affected by recent gender-affirming care decisions.

The family of missing University of Missouri student Riley Strain held a press conference Tuesday afternoon and called for more organized search efforts.

Members of the Nashville Police Department and United Cajun Navy also spoke at the press conference Tuesday. 
Strain, 22, has been missing since March 8, after he was kicked out of a bar on Broadway in Nashville. The Springfield, Missouri, native was in Nashville for a fraternity formal.

Efforts to find Strain by foot, helicopter and boat have been ongoing since his disappearance.

The United Cajun Navy, a natural disaster response organization formed after Hurricane Katrina, was contacted by the Strain family and has provided resources in the ongoing search.

"We feel that we needed the extra resources to come in and help us as we try to get more organized for our family, and see if we can't bring some more clues to light," Strain’s stepfather Chris Whiteid said.

Whiteid thanked the volunteers who have spent time searching so far.

"We ask that you continue, we ask that you work and help with us to become more organized. Because we don't want individuals out there alone, without us knowing. So we want to make sure everybody's careful," Whiteid said. "Safety is the number one priority. "

David Flagg, the national director of operations for the United Cajun Navy, called for volunteers to get involved with the organization. He said their main goal is to find Strain, but the "secondary focus is to ensure the safety of the people who are out here searching."

"If we have folks just out on their own, on these very steep and treacherous terrain on the riverbank and other treacherous aspects of this search ... we don't know what's going on with you," Flagg said. "It's not safe, it's real dangerous. So I would encourage any volunteers who have been here and are searching to please come under the umbrella of the United Cajun Navy search."

Flagg also said the group will deploy an airboat and hovercraft this week to search along the Cumberland River bank, and that additional information on an organized ground search will come at a later time.

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Two women joined search efforts Sunday and found Strain's bank card along an embankment between the Cumberland River and Gay Street. One of the women and Flagg provided safety tips at the press conference for those who are searching on their own:

  1. Wear sturdy shoes
  2. Wear gripped or heavy-duty gloves
  3. Layer your clothing
  4. Wear a mask

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) released new video on Monday that shows Strain exchanging greetings with a police officer around 9:52 p.m. March 8, in the area of Gay Street, south of the Woodland Street Bridge.

Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV said the video was made public only after it made inquiries with the police department about Strain's possible distress.

Detective Anthony Chandler and Sgt. Robert Nielsen, a supervisor for MNPD's Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit, said the video was released because there were concerns Strain was being chased or followed. The investigators said there is no evidence of that and stressed at this point, it is still a missing person's investigation.

Nielsen also said police are still filtering through Crimestoppers tips.

"I cannot stress enough the volume of information we've gotten," he said. "We have to weigh every piece of evidence we get, or information, evenly."

When asked how the MNPD is handling the investigation, the family acknowledged the police department's efforts.

"We feel like they've handled it well," Whiteid said. "We know that there's an excessive amount of information coming into them that they're having to dissect. You know, it's hard as a parent as we are now 10, 11, 12 days into this, and we're trying to ... find Riley ... come up with an outcome here. And so yes, as the days drag on, we are frustrated. We know they're doing their job."

KOMU 8 is a full-powered NBC affiliate operating as an independent commercial property. As such, KOMU 8 is the only major network affiliate in the United States that acts as a university-owned commercial television station utilizing its newsroom as a working lab for students.