A mentally disabled man from San Jose who’s been missing since mid-August was found in downtown Berkeley on Thursday evening, apparently trying to take BART to Fremont.
The man was found by a Downtown Berkeley Association manager who was heading home from work. Lance Gorée said he’d learned about the missing man at noon Thursday when a University of California police officer alerted a downtown ambassador who works with the association to help keep order downtown.
“The UC Berkeley officer came down and stopped one of the ambassadors and told her that they were looking for the man,” said Gorée. “She gave him one of our radios to announce it to everybody on the team.”
Forty-four-year-old Larry Morris had last been seen at 1 p.m. Aug. 15 in the Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara. After he went missing, officers searched the area for him, and sent a notice to surrounding law enforcement agencies to ask them to be on the lookout for Morris.
Authorities said they considered Morris at-risk because, they said, he has the mental capacity of a 2-year-old. Police said Morris does not carry identification, but can identify himself if asked. Foul play was not suspected in his disappearance.
Thursday evening, while heading home from work, Gorée spotted Morris in the downtown Berkeley BART station. Though he hadn’t specifically been looking for Morris, the alert earlier in the day had stuck in his mind.
“I was getting ready to catch the 5:18 train. I went down on the platform and, boom! I said, ‘Man, that’s him,’” said Gorée.
Morris appeared to be on the platform waiting to board a train to Fremont.
“He was walking along, kind of talking to people, and they were sort of ignoring him,” said Gorée. “I went up to him and I said, ‘Is your name Larry?’ He turned and said, ‘Yes, it is.’ I said, ‘We’ve been looking for you.’ He said, ‘You’ve been looking for me?’ I said, ‘Yeah, have a seat here.’ You have to understand, he’s 44 going on 5.”
Morris appeared to be “in good condition and great spirits,” according to a statement released by the association, but was dressed only in thin hospital pants, a pajama-like T-shirt and tennis shoes. When a train approached, he asked Gorée if it was the Fremont train: “He wanted to get on that train,” said Gorée.
“I asked him, how did he get here, and he just smiled at me the first couple times I asked. Then the last time, he just put his foot out and pointed at his feet,” said Gorée. “He was a very sweet little guy.”
After identifying Morris and getting him back to the office, Gorée had his staff bring Morris cookies and fruit juice, as well as an ambassador jacket to warm up.
As they waited for police, Gorée said Morris asked, “Why are they going to tear down our post office?” leading Gorée to believe Morris might have spent time in recent days at the nearby downtown Berkeley post office building where campers since July have been protesting the planned sale of the building.
Officers later took Morris to the Berkeley Police Department where, after a warm meal and a change of clothes, they coordinated his pickup and return home to San Jose.
Gorée said he’d like to try to find out more about Morris, and do what he can to stay in touch.
“He was a really nice guy. After working the street for so long, I wouldn’t say it was emotional, but it was definitely something I’ll never, ever forget,” he said.
The Downtown Berkeley Association oversees business improvements in the neighborhood, and represents the interests of property owners as well as merchants and business tenants. Related to its efforts is the Downtown Ambassadors program, which deploys a team of cleaning and hospitality staff whose work includes greeting people, giving directions and helping businesses with problems they encounter.
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