Hundreds show up over weekend to search for missing UW-La Crosse student

Hamud Faal was last seen in the early morning hours of Feb. 20 in downtown La Crosse

Hoeschler Tower on the UW-La Crosse campus in winter
Hoeschler Tower on the UW-La Crosse campus. Hope Kirwan/WPR

A search continues for a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student who has been missing for more than a week.

Hamud Faal
Hamud Faal. Photo courtesy of the La Crosse Police Department

The La Crosse Police Department said UW-La Crosse student, Hamud Faal, 25, was last seen at 3:37 a.m. on Feb. 20 on Front Street in downtown La Crosse near the Mississippi River.

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La Crosse Police Lt. Linnea Miller said the search for Faal is ongoing, and the department is following up on tips and information they receive.

Jerreh Kujabi is Faal’s step-father, and he lives in the Madison area. He said Faal is a senior studying psychology and is set to graduate this May.

Kujabi said Faal went downtown with his roommates on Saturday night but separated from them. He said Faal contacted his roommates around 2:30 a.m. saying that he wanted to head home. But when his roommates got home around 4 a.m., they realized Faal wasn’t there.

“They called his phone and his phone was off; he wasn’t answering,” Kujabi said. “He never turned up in the morning, afternoon. And then later that evening, around 5 or 6 o’clock on Sunday, they reported him missing to the police.”

On Feb. 20, the roommates also called Kujabi, who said he traveled to La Crosse the following day to check local hospitals and at Faal’s part-time job.

On Saturday, UW-La Crosse students and staff, Faal’s family and other volunteers conducted another search of the downtown area. Kara Ostlund, UW-La Crosse’s dean of students, said volunteers were instructed to look for any articles of clothing or items that could have belonged to Faal and make note of any outdoor surveillance cameras that could have captured footage of him. She said snow showers last week complicated the efforts.

“Obviously, that would cover up any potential footprints where we could have potentially seen where he could have gone,” Ostlund said.

Kujabi, who is originally from Gambia, said other Gambian natives in the Madison area traveled to La Crosse to help, leading to more than 200 people helping with the three-hour search. He said the winter weather conditions have prevented police from fully searching the Mississippi River for signs of Faal. He’s hopeful warmer weather will allow officials to send a dive team out to scour the river near where Faal was last seen.

State Rep. Samba Baldeh, D-Madison, has helped organize volunteers and is working to set up a GoFundMe page to raise a reward for information. Baldeh said he is a longtime friend of Kujabi and many people in his community are anxious to see Faal found.

“He really was a very good kid, very calm, very collected, very focused. He knew what you wanted to do and how to get there,” Baldeh said. “This is, you know, very unlike him to not communicate.”

La Crosse police asking anyone in the downtown area to check doorbell cameras or other video systems for footage of Faal. Officials are also asking community members to check their garages, storage areas and properties for signs of Faal.

Anyone with information about Faal can contact the La Crosse Police Department at 608-782-7575 or anonymously on the La Crosse Area Crime Stoppers website.

As the community searches for Faal, first responders last week found the body of another man just north of the downtown area. Officials found the body of Dayton K. Anderson-Teece, 27, in the Black River on Feb. 23 after being notified about a set of footprints leading out onto the ice. Police don’t believe the Anderson-Teece’s death is connected to Faal’s disappearance.

Students at UW-La Crosse and two other La Crosse colleges created an organization called Operation: River Watch in 2006 to patrol Riverside Park at night and prevent students from falling into the Mississippi River because of excessive drinking. According to the organization, eight separate college students drowned in the river between 1997 and 2006.

Ostlund said she did not know whether volunteers from Operation: River Watch were present in the park the night of Faal’s disappearance, but she noted the group’s patrol shift ends at 3:00 a.m., just before Faal was seen near the park.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the body of Anderson-Teece was not found by those participating in a community search for Faal.