Young autistic boy found safe in Flagstaff

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A young autistic boy who walked away from his elementary school Monday morning has been found safe.

According to officials with the Flagstaff Police Dept., Brandon Shinko, 11, was found at an apartment complex near the Harkins Theatres on Woodlands Village Blvd.

A resident in the area recognized Shinko from media reports and called police. When police arrived Shinko reportedly ran away and was found hiding under a car at the Forest Meadows apartment complex.

"One of our detectives found him under a car. He fled from her and then ran over here to Forest Meadows and began picking up rocks and throwing them at the officers," said Deputy Chief Dan Musselman with the Flagstaff Police Dept. "He's very distraught. The officers basically tackled him and they're running him up to the hospital."

Officers, and detectives along with volunteers spent the afternoon searching the area by car, on horseback and ATVs and by foot.

"They were everywhere up and down this street," said Forest Meadows resident Kelsey Griffith

Police said Shinko was spotted inside Harkins Theatres earlier in the day, possibly watching a movie. Detectives said he changed his shirt and did not have a jacket. That was a major concern as temperatures dropped Monday evening and nightfall approached

Police credit community members for their help in finding the child.

"I am extremely grateful for the entire Flagstaff community and law enforcement for all they have done, Brandon's mother Christina Shinko told 3TV in an email. "I don't think we would have found him if it wasn't for the social media and the alert residents of Flagstaff."

Before he disappeared, Shinko was last seen at Kinsey Elementary School on South Lone Tree Road in Flagstaff at about 11 a.m.

Police had said Shinko, who is autistic, is frightened by authority figures. Police also sad the boy has not been taking his medications and can be violent.

Police said he was doing okay on Monday night following the intense search with the ending everyone hoped for.

"Brandon is doing much better now that he is home. When I arrived at the hospital he was quite frightened and very confused. I was able to calm him down and I give him his medicine," Christina Shinko wrote in an email.

"I'm thrilled that they were able to find him and the community was able to come together. That's why I love Flagstaff," said Griffith.

Christina Shinko said she extremely concerned about her son's situation at his school because this is the second time he was able to freely walk off the campus in past few weeks.

3TV did not get a response from the school or the school district on how Shinko was able to leave campus.