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Les 400 Coups: Missing for 11 Hours on Saturday, 14-Year-Old Boy Was Picking Up a Seashell For His Mom

| March 10, 2014

Francois Truffaut’s 'The 400 Blows' ('Les 400 coups'), a classic in the history of cinema, features the misunderstood Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and ends with Antoine running away, and running a very long distance, to the ocean.

Francois Truffaut’s ‘The 400 Blows’ (‘Les 400 coups’), a classic in the history of cinema, features the misunderstood Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and ends with Antoine running away, and running a very long distance, to the ocean.

For residents of Palm Coast’s B Section, the late afternoon and evening of Saturday (March 8) was jarred by the sight of cops in the neighborhood, a search helicopter overhead and several K-9 units. The triad has typically been deployed in the immediate aftermath of burglaries or assaults, when the suspects are believed to be roaming about.

Not in this case.

Alex Michael Cargo

Alex Michael Cargo

What would by later that evening become a citywide alert that thousands of residents received by email, on their cell phones and landlines involved a 14-year-old boy who’d gone missing. Alex Michael Cargo had run away at noon. He would eventually return home, by taxi, just before 11 p.m. that same evening, safe and apparently unaware that the city had been put on alert for his sake.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s report on the incident, released Monday, details what had led to Alex leaving home, and what he did during his 10-hour absence, including a very long walk to the ocean to pick up a sea shell for his mother. Apparently unbeknownst to him, Alex  recreated the most famous runaway scene in cinema history, involving a misunderstood and friendless boy of the same age: Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” (“Les 400 coups”), which ends with Antoine, the young protagonist, running an enormous distance to the ocean. (See the final scene below.)

At noon, at a house on Burrell Place in Palm Coast, Alex and his mother, Pamela Louise Watts, had an argument. Watts told police that the argument had started over Alex not mowing the lawn. Alex left, and started walking on Burbank Drive. His mother said she tried to dissuade him and to come along with her, but he refused. He entered the woods near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Burrell Place. The last his mother saw him was at noon.

Walking 20 miles in 10 hours, unaware that the city was looking for him.

At first she thought he was merely taking a walk to relax, that he’d be home soon. As the hours passed, Watts got worried. She called the Sheriff’s Office. She told cops that Alex doesn’t have friends in the immediate area. The family used to live in the F Section. He had friends there. She completed a Missing and Endangered Person Report. Cops conducted a search in the F Section , in the area of Floral Court. That proved fruitless.

Alex, his mother told cops, likes the woods, where he enjoys building worlds of his own, and he likes fishing, but he doesn’t have many friends. The search expanded to include the wooded lots around his home and the lake area behind Burbank Drive, then the lake area at Bird of Paradise Park. A K-9 Unit was summoned.

In the B-Section, residents began calling the Sheriff’s Office, wondering and worrying about what was taking place. It wouldn’t be until late into the evening that the Sheriff’s Office issued the Code Red alert that sent word of Alex’s disappearance to phones and email accounts.

There is some misconception as to when police will launch a search for a missing person.

“The 24 hour rule is not true,” Bob Weber, the sheriff’s spokesman, said Monday. “Once a report is taken of a missing adult, or missing endangered person which includes a missing child, a missing adult younger than 26 years of age or a missing adult 26 years of age or older and there is the possibility that person may be in danger or the victim of criminal activity, we have two hours to have that person entered into state and national databases as missing.”

He added: “The decision to launch a search really all depends on the individual circumstances of the incident. Factors such as the age of the person, physical limitations or mental capacity of the person, has the person run away in the past, the concerns the reporting person may have about the circumstances involving the person being missing, etc., all play a role in deciding how the matter will be dealt with.”

Late in the afternoon Flagler County Fire Flight launched above the B Section. A Sheriff’s commander contacted other police agencies to secure assistance through the use of bloodhounds. Tomoka State Prison’s K-9 Units arrived at the Burrell Place house to assist in tracking Alex. Again, the efforts proved fruitless. By then, Alex was quite far from the area being searched.

After the Code Red numerous calls came into the Sheriff’s Office from residents. Additional deputies were added to the search, as were officers of the Flagler Beach Police Department, following up on a number of leads being called in.

At 10:40 p.m., while cops were strategizing their next step, Alex got out of an All County Taxi cab and ran into his house.

A deputy spoke to him, ensured that he was OK and that no crime had taken place. The deputy then interviewed Alex for a timeline of what had taken place.

“Alex,” the report states, “left the house after an argument with his mother, although he could not recall what the argument was about.” He walked past the lake on Bird of Paradise and started walking east once he got to Matanzas Woods Parkway. He watched a portion of a middle school football game at Matanzas High School, then started walking south on Old Kings Road until he reached Palm Coast Parkway. He made a left, kept walking, reached the Hammock Dunes Bridge, and decided to cross it, walking all the way to A1A.

And he kept walking, going south. “Alex finally stopped at the Flagler Beach Pier where he spoke with restaurant staff and looked at some art work,” the report states, referring to the Funky Pelican.

Alex said he then went down to the beach and collected a sea shell for his mother.

By then, he’d walked precisely 13.7 miles from his house on Burrell Place. He’d been walking for several hours.

He noticed it was getting late. He began walking west on State Road 100, making it all the way to Dunkin Donuts on State Road 100, in the Target Shopping Center. That was another 5.8 miles. He’d walked almost 20 miles. Six more and he’d have had a marathon under his belt. But his feet were hurting. Night had fallen. He tried to call his mother several times from Dunkin Donuts but it wouldn’t work. He finally asked the store manager to call him a taxi.

Joseph Vivirito, the 60-year-old cab driver, said he indeed picked up Alex from Dunkin Donuts after Anytime Taxi had declined to take the fare. The call to All-County was made at 10:19, about 20 minutes before Alex was dropped off in front of his house.

“I then spoke to Alex and his mother together,” the investigative deputy writes in his report. “While everyone was thankful that Alex returned home safely, we discussed the seriousness of the incident, and ways to prevent any similar incidents from occurring in the future. Pamela thanked all those involved and took possession of her son.”

The report makes no further mention of the seashell Alex had picked up for his mother.

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22 Responses for “Les 400 Coups: Missing for 11 Hours on Saturday, 14-Year-Old Boy Was Picking Up a Seashell For His Mom”

  1. Mike says:

    Okay, glad the kid is home safe. Now his parents better be picking up the tab for the waste of time, man hours, dogs, choppers and everything else. One big @ss bill to the parents. Then he’ll be mowing a whole hell of a lot of lawns to pay back mama. Seashells ain’t gonna cut it.

  2. Florida Native. says:

    I think the parent(s) and law enforcement over reacted on this one. Just my opinion. Teenagers go off by themselves all the time as adults do and in the paranoid world we live in everybody wants to call out the National Guard,Marines and CIA. I’m glad he’s safe.

  3. Florida Native. says:

    Most law enforcement agencies wait 24 hours before they begin a search because they know that 95% will come home but Flagler County and Palm Coast don’t roll like the rest of the intelligent world in more ways than one.

  4. Genie says:

    I’m wondering what it was that made them overreact in this case….is this kid connected to somebody well known or well to do in this community?

    Again, VERY GLAD it worked out, as 98% do. I do agree that the family should be asked to pick up some of the expense. With summer coming up, events like this one will bankrupt this community. We rely on our Sheriff, pols to exercise better judgement. While a terrifying situation to the family, this was NOT a community emergency.

  5. Mary Cannady says:

    If this was my child I would be happy Palm Coast doesn’t roll like the rest od the “intelligent” world. And if you are a parent who couldn’t find their child for a few hours you would be greatful for the concern of everyone. I’ve lived through this as well as my brother. If only the sheriff had started looking for my niece after being missing for a few hours she might be alive today. Shame on you who worry more about your tax dollars.

  6. dogman says:

    Every one should stop and think before you speak foul
    This is a mothers child ….. If it were your child you would what the same actions that were extended to her .
    Thank god he is safe and at home .
    Job well done Flagler and Palm Coast !!!!!

    • Gary says:

      This is a mothers child ….. If it were your child you would what the same actions that were extended to her .


      This is a mothers child ….. If it were your child you would want the same actions that were extended to her .

  7. The Doctor says:

    It’s really funny that people who were not there are judging what happens and second judging trained emergency responders. Ever been on a search for a teenager who turned up dead? I am willing to bet some of them have and they weight all options in a decision on how they do a alert and how big it is.

    They do not set this off for every missing teen or person I am willing to bet that there was / is more to the circumstances, because we are dealing with a juvenile there is certain information they can not release.

    And what if the kid did turn up dead and no alert was issued? There would have been an outcry of why was not more done to try to find him.

    So a phone call woke up a few people. I am sure they had good reasons to set off the alert to whoever they thought needed to know. Someones life may have been on the line. Just glad this ended well…because some don’t.

  8. RHWeir says:

    Glad the young man is fine. Yes, young man. 5 foot 8 inches and 14 years old. Same size as me but
    I have 10 pounds on him. Now, please use discretion in using the red alert system. I signed up for it because this burg does not have emergency sirens in our area. Are there any sirens in the city? If this happens again, I’m cancelling the service. Oh, I almost forgot, bill the parents for all this mess.

  9. A.S.F. says:

    It sounds like Alex might have some challenges that made the worry understandable. If this is the case, I hope his mother will take the opportunity to get him a proper evaluation and any help he may need, if she hasn’t already. Some disabilities are not so easy to spot and the person may function, just not as well as others. It gets harder to help a person in that situation as they get older. I am glad this young man returned home safely, especially if he is vulnerable in any way. However, it was rather disorienting for the people in my house (one of whom is quite elderly) to be awoken at 11:30 PM by a ringing phone and a robocall to say that this young man was found (Thank God.)

  10. Enlisted says:

    This city has turned into a ZOMBIE Peyton Place. This YOUNG MAN is 14 not 4. For Christ sake, GROW UP !!!

  11. Nikia says:

    Can’t believe the shallow and callous remarks on this page. Thank you Flagler County for keeping our kids safe – on behalf of one mother to another. I would have done the same thing if I were his mom. Guess these people don’t have kids.

  12. Dalgarnif says:

    The use of the emergency broadcast system was uncalled for in this case. The problem is that if the county continues to make unneeded calls at 11:30 at night you will get more people opting out of the emergency broadcast system altogether, thus reducing its value in the case of a real emergency. It will be the classic case of the story of the boy who called wolf once too many times.

  13. confidential says:

    Parents sometimes experience harsh difficult times with their maturing teens in their households…and I fully understand the priority that our sheriff gave to this case reminding all here the sad outcome lately of one teen taking his life in the F section and at least two young men doing so also by firearm an or I-95 traffic death. Only the mother of this teen knew what he said while running away…and probably she conveyed to the sheriff triggering the massive search. I fully justify the actions taken, as is better to prevent a tragic outcome than just report one more!
    Many families are enduring very harsh economic times that affect young and all alike and could be cause for tragic events. I’ve know myself of very tragic ultimate end of life decision made by very young head of households I knew, since right after 2008. That is why didn’t bother me at all the alert call late in the night!
    Thank you sheriff Manfre for caring!

  14. Bill says:

    Im glad he is home safe. I hope he has learned somthingin all of this. i also see that our serif dept did the right thing after this kid was missing for some hours. Now if this keps on happening or he has done this multiple times in the past then it would be overreaction.

  15. wake up says:

    at 14….if my mom told me to get in the car as I tried “run away” I would dang well DO IT! Glad the kid is ok….but COME ON MOM…who’s running the show?!

  16. flagler native says:

    I too am glad he was found ok. It was not a city wide call, it was a county wide call and many elderly people and sickly ones too were woke up for the call, granted something might have happened but what could the normal old, half asleep and shaken up ( being awaken in the middle of the night) be able to do about the lost boy, are we supposed to put our bathrobes on and go out with our flash lights………. Maybe a better idea might have been to call homes in the vicinity of where the boy lived not to the far reaches of the county. I don’t know about the boys condition but he sure was in good shape to be able to walk that far, he needs to join a track team, he is in great shape. Maybe this will get him a few new friends and some good advice about leaving home with out telling mom where.

  17. matty B says:

    He sat at Dunkin Doughnuts on SR100 for over a hour at a table by me. He used the store managers phone and several other peoples phone, I’m not sure who he called though. The Code Red should include a picture and this event would have ended at about 2100.

  18. Concerned Parent says:

    This was not just a typical runaway. The sheriff’s office must have circumstances which they could not divulge to the public that they heightened the response to search for this juvenile. I am sure if you’re child went missing, you would appreciate the effort that everyone put out to search for the missing child. For those who do not have kids or kids are all grown, just put yourself in the shoes of the family who’s child/family member went missing! Im sure you would want all the help to look for them especially if this is not the way they usually act!

    • Barbara says:

      Ours was one of the home’s that received the code red call, we live in Pine Lakes, all I can say is I DID NOT find it disturbing and with the first call I just hoped the child was found and alright. The 2nd call appreciated knowing he was alright.
      I think the young man and his Mom need to have a long talk about what his actions cost in $ and in worries for his family.
      For those who were upset that they were disturbed (been reading other articles) would you have been as disturbed if it had been your child who went missing, of course he really wasn’t missing, but to his Mom, he was. Come on people a little sympathy here.
      Glad everything turned out for the best.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      could not divulge to the public? I don’t buy that since every elderly person that goes missing we’re told of dementia, altzheimers and other ailments.

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