Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Large law enforcement presence on MSU campus for Brendan Santo search

December 2, 2021

A large presence of law enforcement personnel were on campus today to continue the month-long search for missing 18-year-old Brendan Santo.

On Dec. 2, an enhanced search operation was conducted east and north of the Red Cedar River located at the Jenison Fieldhouse. There is a similar search site west of Harrison Road, closer to Brody.

“We have the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, the Macomb County Sheriff's Office, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, and all of their respective dive teams and search teams here today,” MSUPD inspector Chris Rozman said.

During the search, the river has been divided into sections each team was assigned to search. Of particular interest has been the area of the river on campus from the Kalamazoo Street Bridge west to Harrison Road.

“The last couple of days, we've been working with the Oakland County Sheriff's dive team and arborists from MSU,” Rozman said. “From infrastructure planning facilities, the grounds department has provided us with personnel to work with the dive teams to clear some of the debris out of the river.”

The river is eight-to-12 feet deep and the current is six miles per hour. Experts from the Michigan Dept. of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, or EGLE, have consulted with the department on water flow.

“It's a possibility to dam the river,” Rozman said. “We've determined that we cannot dam the entire river ... but there's a possibility that we could set up a temporary dam. ... If we get to a point we want to search and it's too dangerous, we could potentially do some type of damming with permission. We've had those conversations, it has not taken place yet.”

In addition, advanced technology is being used by the dive teams, including different types of sonar being put in the water. Divers are also using dark vision goggles, allowing them to see underwater in zero visibility conditions.

Fifty personnel from the Lansing and Detroit offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, are assisting in ground search operations.

“In total, today we had about 35 divers here ... and just shy of 100 total involved in this operation today," Rozman said.

“This doesn't wrap up our river search operation,” he said. “This is just an enhanced operation we did today to clear a section of the river we really were interested in. We can, then, push west from here, west of Harrison closer as the Red Cedar River goes towards Grand River.”

Since the start of search operations on Oct. 30, the professional search operation and the volunteer search operation have not located any of Santo's property or evidence relating to his disappearance.

“We have not located anything of value in any of our search operations including the operation today,” Rozman said.

Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. announced in an email Nov. 12 that MSU Police and Public Safety will begin installing more than 300 new security cameras on campus.

There are thousands of cameras located throughout campus, but the one at the entrance of Yakeley Hall was not operational the night Santo went missing.

“We know that Brendan left the building based on witnesses that saw him leave and we know his last known location outside the building,” Rozman said. “We don't believe that not having that video is detrimental to our investigation in any way. ... There are no other cameras that would have been in the area where Brendan was last seen that we're not working.”

All cameras are operated in a decentralized manner, different departments and divisions are in-charge of them. MSUPD has its own cameras, all of them were operational that night.

“MSU Police and Public Safety is going to assume more of a role with the oversight and management of the cameras on campus,” he said. “We’re going to transition to a centralized video management system. ... It's going to take a while ... but down the road, we will manage all cameras on campus and we'll have one video management system.”

MSUPD has been in communication with the Santo family, who have since returned to their hometown.

“They have a few different points of contact at our department ... where they can reach out by text message or phone call,” he said. “We speak on a weekly basis and sometimes on a daily basis with the Santo family.”

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Earlier this week, a volunteer search for Santo was conducted on Michigan State University's campus ravine near the Red Cedar River, Beal Street and Michigan Avenue.

In addition, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office conducted boat search operations on the Red Cedar River on Nov. 30 as part of the continued search for Santo.

"We continue our collective work as an investigative team," MSUPD inspector Chris Rozman said. "Our investigation has led us to the Red Cedar River which continues to be of particular interest, however, we continue to explore other possibilities."

The investigation has been reviewed by local, state and federal partners. There have been no confirmed sightings of Brendan since he was last seen on Oct. 29. Foul play is not suspected.

Rozman said, "Our investigation and search efforts have not located any items of interest or any of Brendan’s personal property."

Sonar, canines and underwater technology have been used as part of the river search to identify areas of interest in the water.

"The water search is complex and challenging and remains ongoing," Rozman said. "Challenges of searching the river are the current, depth, visibility, obstacles present, as well as other underwater entanglement hazards. We have consulted with engineers and water experts as part of our search operation."

Agencies assisting with the water search operation include MSU Police and Public Safety, Michigan State Police Marine Services Division, Capital Area Dive Team, Lansing Police Department, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, Oakland County Sheriff Dive Team, Washtenaw County Sheriff Dive Team, Detroit Police Department Dive Team and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The MSU Police Digital Forensics and Cyber Crime Unit are also working with the Michigan State Police Technical Services Unit. They are using advanced techniques to review cellular, smartphone and GPS data.

Santo's phone stopped transmitting any cellular or GPS data on Saturday, Oct. 30, shortly after midnight. He had an iPhone 12 with no screen protector. It was in a blue case. Santo's phone has not been recovered.

"It is not possible to know the reason the phone stopped transmitting data, but possibilities include that it ran out of battery, was turned off, or became submerged in water. ... We are confident we have recovered as much information from his digital footprint as we are going to be able to obtain," Rozman said.

Santo was not carrying the keys to his vehicle, but his family was able to take it home. However, he was carrying the keys to his friend's vehicle. The friend’s vehicle was parked at Emmons Hall on Friday. The car was then towed to a dealership on Sunday for new keys.

Santo's friends checked the vehicle throughout the day on Saturday, thinking he had fallen asleep in it. When Santo didn't return, his friends contacted MSUPD. The police searched the vehicle, and his friends are cooperating with the department.

Brendan’s credit card has not been used since the evening of Oct. 29. The cameras around the area Santo went missing were not operational.

MSUPD has received no other reports of missing persons.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation,” Rozman said. “I can confirm that there's no other reports of any missing students on campus. I can confirm that we have not received any reports of any criminal activity related to this. ... There is nothing we have that we have not released to the public that involves this case.”

Rozman confirmed the department has been following up on and investigating any tips they received.

"We have received hundreds of tips. Our investigative team looks at each individual tip and evaluates what follow-up investigation can be conducted and then performs that follow-up as necessary. Some are just suggestions and not actually tips," he said.

On Nov. 17, missing Grand Valley State University student Brendan Santo's family increased the reward from $11,000 to over $20,000 for anyone with credible information that leads to bringing Santo home.

The reward will be managed through Crime Stoppers of Mid-Michigan through MSUPD’s toll-free tip line and tip email.

Since Dec. 2, the GoFundMe organized by Melissa Corsi for Santo's family has reached more than $110,000 in donations.

The funds will be used to hire private entities to help increase search efforts, print flyers, help with family costs incurred due to absence from work and traveling between East Lansing and home, feed volunteers and notify additional publications to get the word out about Santo, including billboard signs.

Santo was last seen on Oct. 29, leaving Yakeley Hall shortly before midnight. It is possible Santo planned to walk approximately a half-mile to the Brody Neighborhood, according to a Nov. 1 MSUPD news release.

Yakeley Hall is located on the north end of MSU’s campus, near Michigan Avenue and Grand River Avenue.

Santo was not a student at MSU and was visiting friends. However, there is no indication he left the East Lansing area.

The Santo family has encouraged community members to continue to keep their eyes open and provide tips or information to investigators.

"Brendan is a great kid. He’s smart with a great personality," Santo's aunt Dawn Brewer said. "He is wonderful with the younger kids in our family. ... He is outgoing, goofy and a great friend." Brewer said.

Brewer said Santo always helped and supported his friends in times of need.

"The best part is he is always smiling. ... The world needs more humans like Brendan and that is one of the many reasons we need him home," Brewer said.

A more intensive search will be conducted of both on-campus and off-campus stretches to Lansing. This search will include numerous dive resources from all over the state as well as canines, the Instagram page said in a recent post.

Rozman said, "It's important that when we do our jobs we always carry a level of hope and not make any assumptions. We are doing everything we can to find Brendan."

If you have any information, call MSUPD toll-free at 844-99-MSUPD or email You can also contact Crime Stoppers of Mid-Michigan at 517-483-STOP.

For resources, the MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, is available 24/7 by calling 517-355-8270. The MSU Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, is also available by calling 517-355-4506.

Students at Grand Valley State University can also contact their University Counseling Center at 616-331-3266.


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