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Dock Ellis Foundation believes Amber Alert could have saved teen's life

Dock Ellis Foundation believes Amber Alert could have saved teen's life
Dock Ellis Foundation believes Amber Alert could have saved teen's life 02:24

Denver police are still investigating the death of a 16-year-old girl, who investigators believe was killed Monday morning.

The victim, identified as 16-year-old Tayanna Manuel, was last seen late Thursday night.

Her family reached out to the Dock Ellis Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping families of missing persons of color, for help.

As soon as the foundation got the call early Christmas morning they got to work putting out a flyer with her face on it, but they tell CBS News Colorado an Amber Alert could have saved the teen's life.

Jasmine Lee, CEO of the Dock Ellis Foundation, sees these types of cases often. She says often children of color get overlooked when they are reported missing.

"We called over and over and over again, we sent email communications demanding for an Amber Alert to be pushed out," exclaimed Lee.

Amber Alerts are usually issued when a child goes missing, but that wasn't the case for Manuel, who was found dead near a dumpster outside of an apartment complex in the 4900 block of North Salida Street near 60th Avenue and Pena Boulevard.

"We are fully aware when the communication began with law enforcement," said Lee. "We definitely understand the timeline and we know that Amber Alert could have been issued and, you know, the question that we all walk away with is 'if it would have been issued would we have a different outcome?'"

The Dock Ellis Foundation works on getting answers for families of color when their loved ones go missing. In this case they were in communication with the Denver Police Department, but the outcome was heartbreaking.

"It angers us because the ironic thing about this is we were just coming out of a case with basically the same scenario, where two 5-month-old twins had been kidnapped and there had been no Amber Alert," said Hjordis Ellis with the foundation. "The individual had a four-hour leeway. So now we get this case and the first thing we are saying is 'Amber Alert, Amber Alert' and we are not getting any response and it angers us, frustrates us and it breaks our hearts."

For Michelle Luster, an advocate for the organization, who has been in communication with Manuel's family, providing them comfort, she understands this situation well. Her sister Niqui McCown has been missing for over 20 years.

"I have seen and heard those same tears from my own mom, so I can relate and I just try to tell her, 'you are going to get through this. I know what you are feeling,' and they just seem to be able to open up to me and tell me what they are feeling," said McCown.

Police confirmed Manuel's death on Monday and her death is now being investigated as a homicide.

Denver police confirmed there was no Amber Alert issued in this case. Manuel was first reported missing the morning of Saturday, Dec. 24. A vehicle believed to be involved in her death, was recovered Thursday, Dec. 29, but no arrests have been made as of Saturday.

The department says this case remains under investigation and that anyone with information should contact Denver Crime Stoppers.

When asked why an Amber Alert wasn't issued, DPD said, "It was determined that based on the information detectives had at the time, there was not enough for an Amber Alert to be issued. Again, due to the ongoing homicide investigation, we are unable at this time to provide additional details."

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