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New video, 911 call give more details into Riley Strain disappearance

New camera footage shows the missing college student stumble and collide with a pole as he tried to head to his hotel from a bar in Nashville.
New video, 911 call give more details into Riley Strain disappearance
Posted at 8:27 AM, Mar 14, 2024

For five days, investigators have searched low along the banks of the Cumberland River in Tennessee, and put his picture high up on billboards — but there's still no sign of college student Riley Strain.

But new video and a 911 call could give a few more details about the night the University of Missouri senior disappeared in Downtown Nashville.

Employees at Music City Wine and Spirits, located on Church Street, heard about the missing 22-year-old but didn't think to check their surveillance cameras until a construction worker — and then Strain's own mother — asked them to check.

"We were able to go back on the cameras at that time and look at the picture more clearly and see it was the kid that was missing," said Sherief Gerges, who works at the store.

New camera angle

Sure enough, they discovered they had two angles of Strain making his way around Third Avenue onto Church Street. The first angle shows Strain running down the sidewalk until he stumbles and collides with a pole. He remains on the ground for a moment and then stands back up.

The second angle shows Strain struggling to continue down Church Street. A third angle from a Metropolitan Nashville Police Department camera shows Strain crossing First Avenue where Church Street turns into Gay Street near the river. Strain can be seen looking around for a moment, before continuing toward the river.

That was the last time Strain was shown on camera, but according to his family, his phone showed his location moving up Gay Street toward the James Robertson Parkway Bridge before the signal stopped.

Gerges says working in the heart of downtown, he's used to seeing people struggle to walk down the street. There's just one key difference.

"Usually someone is with that person to help them," he said. "They usually have someone with them to guide them, call them an Uber, take them to a hotel. Not just let them be."

911 call

Saturday afternoon, about 16 hours after Strain was last seen, some of his friends came to the Central Precinct on Korean Veterans Parkway, hoping to report him missing. When they couldn't get into the lobby, they called 911.

"OK, what is his name?" asked the 911 operator. Brayden Baltz, one of Strain's friends, replied, "His name is Riley Strain."

"What color clothing was he last seen wearing?" asked the operator.

"He was wearing jeans, boots and a black — half black shirt, half brown, light brown," replied Baltz.

So what took so long for the 911 call?

Strain was walking alone Friday night because he was asked to leave by Luke's 32 Bridge, a bar owned by country music singer Luke Bryan. For some reason, none of Strain's fraternity brothers followed him as he planned to head back to his hotel.

According to Strain's family, his fraternity brothers didn't realize Strain never made it back to the hotel until early Saturday morning. The next morning, his friends started searching and stopped by the Davidson County Sheriff's office first, before being redirected to Metro Police. The friends evidently called Strain's parents about the disappearance around 10:30 am Saturday.

Community reaction and police guidance

Mackenzie Mcguire says she is visiting Nashville and was also out that Friday night.

"We were all looking through our phones, looking ... at our photos from that night ... to see if we could see anything from the street," she said.

She never saw Strain, but she wishes they were able to intervene.

"We could've definitely helped that night. We could've approached him, we could've called the police, we could've called an Uber, we could've found his friends ..."

Metro Police say you can do all of the above if you feel comfortable. If you don't, find a nearby police officer or security guard to help. If you're not able to, you can always call the non-emergency line.

Mcguire said while staying in groups in a common practice among women, it's important and can be life changing for anyone.

"We know we need to stick together," she said.

"In the middle of having fun, you can put fun on hold to make sure that someone gets to where they need to go," added Andrea Baugh from Nashville.

TABC investigation and river searches

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission confirmed to Scripps News Nashville that they are launching an investigation into Luke's 32 Bridge. They want to see if bartenders there may have overserved Strain before they asked him to leave.

Nashville's Office of Emergency Management confirmed, despite searching by boat for Strain on Tuesday, their services were not requested on Wednesday.

Anyone with any information about where Strain might be is urged to call Metro Police.

This was originally published by Chris Davis and Nikki Hauser at Scripps News Nashville.

SEE MORE: Emergency crews search river for missing college student Riley Strain


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