State's Amber Alert Coordinator Says 'Err On The Side Of Caution'

Wednesday, August 28th 2013, 10:51 pm

An Amber Alert was issued for Kegan Manning Tuesday night out of Cherokee County, after his mother reported that Kegan's father had taken the boy from her at knife point. Kegan's father, Johnny Manning said she greatly exaggerated what actually happened.

When Amber Alerts were first introduced, they were meant for children abducted by strangers, but as time went on, the criteria were modified to include family members.

Police say there are cases where parents are just as violent as strangers, but Johnny Manning said that was not the case with him. He said the Amber Alert should have never been issued.

But the state's Amber Alert coordinator said there was no other option at the time.

Tuesday night, what looked like a child abduction, looked to investigators more like a custody battle by Wednesday.

8/28/2013 Related Story: Father Says Video Proves Claims That Prompted Amber Alert Were False

"Even though it was a custody situation and, generally, we do not issue an Amber Alert from a custody situation, there were facts that they had developed, which the father in this case was acting in a manner that was not normal," Gene Thaxton said.

Thaxton, the Oklahoma Amber Alert Coordinator, said there's a checklist that every law enforcement agency must follow before an Amber Alert is issued.

• Is the child under 18? If not, does the victim have a proven mental or physical disability?
• Did anyone witness the kidnapping and did it involve violence?
• And finally, is the victim in serious danger?

Tulsa Police Sgt. John Adams, who also serves on the state's Amber Alert board, said there's no time to waste when it comes to a child's safety.

"You believe the child's in danger, that's what you've got. You've got nothing to say the child's not in danger, you have to issue the Amber Alert, because of the safety of the child," Adams said.

Tulsa Police were called in to help, because Manning was said to be headed to Tulsa.

Thaxton said the initial report indicated Kegan was in danger.

"We are going to err on the side of caution," Thaxton said.

But as the investigation continued, Cherokee County Investigator Gary Cacy said the details of the story began to raise questions.

That's something Adams said is common.

"When you have an investigation into anything, it changes as you develop more information, as you get further into it," Adams said.

Before an alert is issued, Thaxton said he reviews it with the law enforcement agency to make sure it meets the criteria. Then, it's passed along to the Department of Public Safety to be sent out to the public.