A 9-year-old boy has been found safe after he was reported missing Tuesday when he did not return home from his school in Chicago's Gresham neighborhood on the city's South Side, according to police.
Michael Campbell was found Wednesday morning, police said, after he last seen at 12 p.m. at Harvard Elementary School in the 7500 block of South Harvard Avenue.
"I mean, this is very... it's very, very hard," Michael's mother Elmarita Fletcher said at a news conference Wednesday morning, calling for his return.
"I'm really trying to cope with this and trying to be strong for my kids and my family and whatnot but I don't know. I don't know how long I can remain strong," she continued, adding, "We just want him home safe and sound."
NBC 5 asked Michael what he was doing at night, and the boy responded “sleep.” According to the boy, he had simply gone to a friend’s house after school.
The family called an ambulance shortly after the reunion to ensure he was safe. Doctors at Comer Children’s hospital said he was perfectly fine.
“He say he didn’t come home last night, when he went by his friend(s’) house, because there was a gun fire,” Michael’s father said. “And he asked the kids’ mother, can they stay, and they told him they can stay.”
Fletcher said she sent Michael to school with his brother Tuesday morning, and when her older son returned home alone that afternoon, he told her he thought Michael may have had a detention.
After the time detention would have been over, Fletcher said she began to worry and called Michael's father to see if the boy was with him.
When Michael's parents realized he was missing, Fletcher said she called police.
"The last time that we heard that his friends said that they'd seen him was at the school grounds at the gate talking to his friend," Fletcher said.
She said she firmly believed it was not a case of her son trying to run away.
"He don't even know how to catch the bus. He's only nine years old," she exclaimed. "This is not that, that he caught the bus and went somewhere - this is not that."
Family and friends spent Tuesday night and Wednesday morning searching the neighborhood, knocking doors near Fletcher's home about one block north of the school.
Michael says he's learned a valuable lesson, "not to leave without permission."