RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Where is Alex Vasquez? He went missing over three years ago. The 24 year old was staying at his brother's home on the Pine Ridge reservation in Kyle and according to family members, he simply vanished. Three years passed of what you'd think would be frantic searching. But remembering a lost man in Indian Country is not that simple.
Stanley Little Whiteman is the Tribal Council Representative for Kyle. He also is the Law and Order Chairman on the Tribal Council and works directly with the tribal police. He says that there's no way that Alex could have just disappeared from the community.
"No one just goes missing, there has to be a reason," says Little Whiteman "... someone knows out there and they're just not saying anything."
One of Alex's cousin, Misty Hernandez, knew Alex as a child. Although she didn't keep in touch with Alex as he grew into adulthood, she is trying to keep the search for Alex ongoing.
"It just can't be gone and nothing," says Misty.
Little Whiteman believes that Alex never left the two square miles of Kyle, South Dakota.
"I mean you have to believe that he is dead out there someplace," says Little Whiteman
On October 29, 2015, Alex was staying in a trailer home in Kyle with his brother, Angel. The home is right up against American Horse Creek. Their Dad had earlier left to go visit relatives in Mexico. Angel last saw Alex in the trailer in the early morning hours of October 29th, around 3 am. He says that Alex had been up sick all night from drinking. Alex asked Angel for money but Angel refused and went back to bed. When Angel got up to go to work, Alex was gone.
2015 was a bad year to go missing on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The family wishes that more would have been done right when Alex first went missing.
"You know how you see it on TV everyone standing side by side arms linked, all helping each other, we didn't get that," says Misty. Although several searches were conducted, they couldn't find Alex. Little Whitman says resources were stretched thin.
"You have to remember that when Vasquez first disappeared law enforcement was down to probably 20-25 officers. There probably was a lot of mistakes that were made," says Little Whiteman
Those 20 - 25 officers would need to patrol the entire 3500 square miles of the reservation, 24/7. As a way of comparison, the city of Rapid City is 55 square miles.
Just a few months after Alex disappeared, changes came to law enforcement on the reservation.
Little Whiteman explains that in 2016, the tribe came in to overhaul law enforcement "because there was a lot of problems." The problems, according to Little Whiteman, were primarily focused on the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
"We're taking public safety and giving them the ability by taking that criminal investigation away from the BIA and making it so it can help people on this reservation," says Little Whiteman.
Unfortunately, those changes came too late for Alex's family.
Angel says that the family was struggling back in 2015 and continue to struggle to this day.
And Alex remains missing.
There is still a 25,000 reward for information about Alex's disappearance. He also goes by the name Alex Gay or Tank Gay or Tank Vasquez. Little Whiteman wants the public to know that withholding information about a crime can itself be a punishable offense. KOTA News did file a Freedom of Information Act request regarding Alex's disappearance but were told that the FBI would not provide any information on someone who is considered missing.