JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An Amber Alert remains in effect Monday for two children who were reported missing in Jacksonville.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Braxton Williams, 6, and his sister, Bri’ya Williams, 5, were reported missing by a family member about 1:30 p.m. Sunday after they were last seen about two hours earlier while playing in the front yard of a home.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued the Amber Alert about 5:15 p.m.
Roxanne Lloyd, the children’s paternal grandmother, told News 6 partner WJXT-TV that the family has been in the home for about two or three years and was preparing for a barbecue when the children’s father went inside for a brief period of time and the children disappeared.
“My son told me that they was fixing to get ready to have a barbecue and the kids was right outside the door, which is probably only steps away from the kitchen. You know, he could look out the kitchen window and see the kids, and he said that he went in the house briefly to get the meat, and when he came back out, they was gone just that quick,” explained Lloyd, who said her two grandchildren had never wandered away before. “We’re asking for all prayers.”
Police said Braxton was last seen wearing a red sweater and blue jeans. He was described as being 3 feet, 4 inches tall, weighing 40 pounds and having black hair and brown eyes. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the boy is said to be on the autism spectrum but will communicate with others. Lloyd said Braxton is a quiet little boy, while Bri’ya is more active and outgoing than her brother.
Bri’ya was wearing a gray sweater with multicolored writing on the front and black leggings when she was last seen, authorities said. The girl was described as being 3 feet tall, weighing 30 pounds and having black hair and brown eyes. Since the boy and girl are so close in age, they’ve always had a close sibling bond, their grandmother said.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, family members had attempted to look for the children for an extended period of time before notifying police, who then escalated the search.
The JSO helicopter and drones flew above as K-9s, some of which were from other agencies and private groups, searched on the ground and detectives canvassed the area, going door to door. Dive teams were also assisting in the search. The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department set up its mobile command unit inside the Paradise Village mobile home park off West Beaver Street, just east of Chaffee Road.
“We’re searching the surrounding areas. We’re searching ponds. We’re searching trash cans. We’re searching everything,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Officer Christian Hancock said at a 6:50 p.m. media briefing. “We’re looking for these children, and we aim to find them.”
Hancock said at that time that crews were ramping up the search, which will continue throughout the night. He said the children could be anywhere in Florida or Southeast Georgia.
“If they are alone, they are in danger," Hancock said. “We don’t know if they’re alone or they’re with somebody. That part of the investigation, obviously, is still ongoing. Our major focus right now is finding those two children.”
WJXT-TV crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said the first 12 to 48 hours of a search are the most important. He also said that searching in the dark slows down the investigation.
“The police are going to stay out here. They’re going to be out here all night. When the sun comes up, they’re going to be here. They’re going to have a fresh bodies here to search again,” Jefferson said. “It’s not uncommon for them to have officers research an area that was searched the night before because they are dealing with darkness and maybe a spot or pocket that officers may have missed. But they just wanna make sure that they go through with a fine-tooth comb.”
Countless people who live in the neighborhood joined in on the search, and police said other community members can help by sharing photos of the missing children on social media and keeping their eyes open.
“We’re asking for everybody’s assistance in looking,” Hancock said. “We want them to pay attention, look at these children, look at their faces in the pictures, and if you see something, please call us and say something.”
Additionally, police also asked people living near West Beaver Street at Port-Au-Prince Drive to check around their properties, including exterior structures and under mobile homes.
Anyone who has seen the children or who has information about their whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 904-630-0500 or 911.
As of Sunday evening, Lloyd said, the children’s parents, Brian Williams and Bianca Jackson, were home and were not doing well.
“It’s devastating,” she said.
Watch News 6 and stay with ClickOrlando.com for updates.