SDMRT 2020-03 Valley Center

SDMRT Operations Report 2020-03
Full Callout – Missing Person, Valley Center, CA
Brian Lee Danielson
15 February 2020

SDMRT Responders: Richard Yocum, Will Dalrymple, Kristin Kuhn, John Hatala, David Brandt, Ming Chuang, John Mou, Brad Hernandez, Mark Kenny, Michelle Bearmar, Michael Winters, Arun John, and Jennifer Macelt

SDMRT ITC: Hugo Bermudez

Other Responding Organizations: SDSDSAR (ground searchers, motorized, canine, UAS, etc.), SD Sheriff Dept, SD Sheriff Dept UAS, SD Sheriff Senior Volunteers (Traffic Control), SD Sheriff Reserve Deputies (Traffic Control), CHP (Traffic Control), SD Sheriff Homicide, SD County Medical Examiner. Approx. 100 personnel, including 55 SAR.

Short Summary:

  • Type of callout: Full
  • In-county San Diego
  • Type of search: Search for missing person, likely human remains
  • Location:
    • PLS at Harvest Farms Market, 2890 Lilac Road, Valley Center, CA
    • CP at Lilac School, 30109 Lilac Road, Valley Center, CA
    • Subject’s remains located near his residence, 11166 West Lilac Road, Valley Center, CA
  • Operational periods: 15 Feb 2020, 1030 – 1730
    • Earliest time of activity: Callout on 11 Feb 2020 for planned search start at 1030 on 15 Feb 2020
  • Information about the subject:
    • Name of subject: 1 subject, Brian Lee Danielson
    • Age: 54-year-old man
    • Level of fitness and experience: Known to go for 2-hour walks
    • Mental status: Alcoholic, history of withdrawal symptoms, reported to be depressed
    • Injuries: None known, missing for 3 months, likely deceased
    • How were they found: Ground search team in assigned search sector near the residence
  • Any rescuers injured: None
  • Aircraft used: SD Sheriff and SDSDSAR UAS units, 3 drone craft

Descriptive Report

A planned callout was issued on 11 Feb 2020 for a 15 Feb 2020 missing person search, likely for human remains for Brian Danielson, a 54-year-old man. The mission was to locate possible human remains in the vicinity of the subject’s residence and along roads between his residence and the PLS. He is reported to be alcoholic with withdrawal symptoms. The subject’s PLS was at the Harvest Farms Market liquor store in Valley Center at 0600 on 14 Nov 2019 by the owner of the liquor store, approximately 3.5 miles away from the subject’s home, where he lived in a granny flat. He was reported missing by his uncle on 19 Nov 2019 and a local search of the nearby premises was conducted by SD Sheriff deputies (including a 1-mile trail around the residence, a bridge under Lilac and West Lilac, surrounding residences, and areas frequented by transients), ASTREA (1-2 mile radius around his residence), and SD Sheriff canine units (vegetated area surrounding the residence, the property across the street, and creek bed need Lilac Road and Frog Hollow) that month, with no clues. His truck was found at his residence, his phone had been disconnected, and he had no banking, credit card, or mail pick up activity since his disappearance. During the 3 months since he was last seen, Sheriff’s detectives investigation included local casinos, jails, hospitals, the ME office, the subject’s post office box, and several local support group organizations, but found no clues as to his whereabouts.

A 20-minute briefing was conducted at 1100 and teams departed for sector and route searches shortly thereafter. The highest priority search area was around the residence. Lower priorities were the PLS, roadways between the residence and PLS (it was suspected that he walked to the liquor store that morning), and the CP area. 1 ground team searched the CP area. 4 ground teams, an HRD dog team, and 1 UAS were deployed to search the area around the residence. 1 HRD team was sent to search the PLS. The safety of teams searching the roads was a priority concern. 7 Sheriff’s Senior volunteers in 4 cars are dispatched to set up 4 traffic control points for the major roads entering the area, stopping each car and telling them to drive slowly and be aware of teams on the roads. 5 Sheriff’s reserve deputies in 5 cars were assigned to trail the teams on the roads, with amber lights flashing. 1 CHP unit was to roam the search roads and enforce speed limits. Ground SAR teams were dispatched to search segments of the roads to a width that someone may have fallen or been hit by a car, placing a traffic cone at their starting point, completing their road segment northerly until turning around to search the other side of the road southernly. The SDSDSAR UAS team with 2 drones was assigned to search the same roadways.

At 1200, ground SAR Team 2 began its sector search along a densely vegetated area near the subject’s residence, using a stream and neighboring properties as guardrails. At 1228, a member of Team 2 detected odorous decomposing human remains along a dry sandy area near the creek, underneath a large leaning tree. The location was approximately 400 meters from the subject’s residence. Team 2 cleared the net, reported “10 Edward Sam 5 no code” and secured the area.

The Sheriff SAR Coordinator shortly arrived on the scene and confirmed the finding. SD Sheriff Homicide officers then arrived at the scene and took notes of their findings and did a cursory search of the immediate area, while calling the SD County ME for further processing of the remains.

A debrief by the SD Sheriff SAR Coordinator was done at approximately 1415. Danielson family members were present and thanked the SAR members for their efforts. After the debrief a follow-on line search for additional human remains and personal effects was conducted by 14 SAR personnel in the immediate area of the subject’s location.

Brian Lee Danielson

Lessons Learned/Suggestions for Future Operations

  1. The degree of reliability of search dogs should be considered in the planning of searches and areas that might be searched more than once.
  2. The owner of the property where the subject rented a small home had made specific requests about vehicle traffic damage to her property, which SDSAR was aware. However, the SD Sheriff Homicide team was not aware of these requests and parked in an area where they shouldn’t have. For future operations, all responding organizations should be aware of constraints and restraints on private property.
  3. Team 2 noted a “Beware of Dog” sign on the property near its search area. While there was no adverse dog activity during the search, the searchers should have been assured that property owners surrounding the search area were aware of the search and had secured their dogs.
  4. Sheriff Senior Volunteers require extras instructions and coaching, and close observation to assure they understand and complete their assignments.