HEATHROW, Fla. – Seminole County deputies said they have found the body of a missing 6-year-old boy with autism in a lake near his home on Ridgemount Place in Heathrow.
Officials from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office said the body of Humza Mohammad Syed was found Sunday in Lake Sawyer after he was reported missing the night before. Deputies canceled the missing child alert for Syed just before 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said the boy was at home with his two older brothers, who are 24 and 16, while their parents were away. Around 7 p.m., the 16-year-old brother went to bed and the 24-year-old brother went to the bathroom for a short amount of time, according to authorities. Lemma said that when the older brother returned from the bathroom, he found the garage door open and Syed gone.
A neighbor later reported seeing Syed around 8:30 at night when the boy approached the neighbor's screened-in pool. Deputies said the neighbor asked Syed what he was doing and then heard the child mumble something and walk away. The neighbor assumed Syed was the child that lived in a home directly adjacent and did not deem the encounter unusual, according to authorities.
The two brothers "immediately started searching" for over an hour, officials said. They eventually contacted Heathrow security and then authorities just after 9:30 p.m.
Lemma said even more agencies aided in the search, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, K-9 bloodhound units, the FBI and local citizens.
"The call from the citizens in Heathrow was just absolutely amazing," Lemma said. "We had hundreds of people walking the streets all hours of the night. Probably 60 or 70 law enforcement officers, another 30, 40, 50 citizens in the neighborhood looking, searching everywhere we could possibly look."
Lemma said that after an all-night search, which included the office's helicopter flying and boats searching Lake Sawyer, no one was able to find Syed. When crews searched again during the day, they then found Syed's body in the lake.
The Seminole County medical examiner is still determining the exact cause of Syed's death, but Lemma said all signs point toward the boy's drowning. He said that although Syed likely went into the lake shortly after being seen at 8:30 p.m., it is not unusual for drowning victims to not be visible at first.
"This is a situation where there are no signs that there has been any violation of criminal law," Lemma said.
Victim advocates are with Syed's family and the Heathrow community and will be at Syed's school.
Family members described the boy as a "runner." Family members told law enforcement that in school, whenever Syed became angry or frightened, he would run away from the situation. They said he was not afraid of water but could not swim and that they had found him at the lake once before when he went off on his own.
Lemma said the two things people can take from the tragedy are an awareness of where people can fall on the autism spectrum and vigilance when it comes to unattended young children.
"We as law-abiding citizens, if we see a a 6-year-old, autism or not, walking down the streets unattended or walking along waterways, it raises a level of concern," Lemma said.
Deputies have reported that Syed was 6 years old, while the missing child alert sent out listed him as 7.