tv Nightline ABC September 29, 2021 12:37am-1:06am PDT
thanks for watching, good night. ♪ this is "nightline." >> tonight, the mysterious disappearance of daniel robinson. missing for months. last seen driving into the desert. >> once i got possession of this vehicle, it started to unravel at that point. >> his family learning how not all missing people are treated the same. >> people of color have to go through hurdles and do not receive the urgency that it takes to find their loved ones. plus barack obama breaking ground on his presidential library on the south side of chicago. >> just about everything that's important to me in my life started here. >> and reminiscing in an exclusive interview with abc's robin roberts. >> look at that baby face. >> i can't believe that anybody
the young geologist has not been seen in months. here's my "nightline" coanchor byron pitts. ♪ >> we're headed down sun valley parkway in cactus road, the place my son was last seen. >> reporter: for three months david robinson has been desperately searching for answers. >> in a quarter mile, turn left. >> reporter: to find them, he's driven this stretch of road more times than he can remember. >> i've been up and down the road. >> reporter: in this vast and unforgiving desert 50 miles southwest of phoenix, david hopes to find his 24-year-old son, daniel, who went missing on june 23rd. >> i only imagine, every time i look out there, my son somewhere, hoping his dad will come find him, you know. >> reporter: the local buckeye
police department is leading the investigation, having launched an extensive aerial and ground search stretching 70 square miles. but daniel's family says they feel let down by police, believing there has been a lack of urgency and motivation. >> i feel like there's a lot that wasn't answered for me regarding my son's case. i'm still searching those answers, and i'm going to keep trying until i get them. >> reporter: daniel's family is just one of thousands who believe their missing child is not a priority in the eyes of law enforcement. >> when it's an adult that's missing, male or female, black or brown, their disappearance is oftentimes associated with some sort of criminal activity. it really desensitizes the case and dehumanizes them. >> often, very often, people of color have to go through hurdles and do not receive the urgency that it takes to find their loved ones. >> reporter: this past sunday, they held a press conference along with local community leaders with the hope of bringing national attention to daniel's case and, they say, to put pressure on law enforcement to heighten their search
efforts. >> where is our black son? we want answers. we need answers. >> reporter: it all began on wednesday, june 23rd. daniel, a geologist, was testing groundwater at a well site in a remote part of the arizona desert. his mother, melissa, says that from a young age he and his siblings dreamed of doing work that would make an impact. >> with all the global warming and changes in the climate, he wanted to be a part of something great. >> reporter: the same day, melissa and husband david, who lives in south carolina, received the call no parent wants to receive. >> my daughter davicia called me and let me know that one of the co-workers came by and alerted her that they're looking for daniel. >> mama, i want you to know daniel just went missing. you know, it's like i had a pause in that moment going, he went missing? what are you talking about?
>> reporter: according to the police report, one of daniel's co-workers says he last saw daniel walk off the job site and drive off the road and into the desert in a 2017 blue jeep renegade at 9:15 a.m. local time. david says he kept trying to call his son, to no avail. >> of course, over a period of time, had to make a decision to put in a missing person's report. i did ask them to search the desert for my son. being that it was night, i was told by an officer they would try to do it in the morning. >> reporter: according to the police report, the day daniel was reported missing, a responding officer called daniel's phone multiple times and then went out to search the area where he was last seen but couldn't find daniel or his vehicle. david says he also asked for a helicopter search, but the department did not send one to the site until a little more than a day later. concerned by the lack of answers, david decides to drive
the more than 2,000 miles to arizona. >> i made a quick decision, throw everything i had in my vehicle and start heading up to phoenix to go take care of my son. >> reporter: a military veteran, his new front line, his son's search. >> and my son was now missing. >> reporter: july 6th, almost two weeks after going missing, the police department searches his home, find nothing indication daniel had packed and planned a trip of any kind. taking matters into his own hands, driving to the site that would become all too familiar. >> i thought i can hopefully spot his vehicle somehow. >> reporter: with the help of volunteers, david led a search party. hundreds of local civilian volunteers began combing the arizona desert. >> we set up a tent on this little area over here for water, medical aid, things like that, command center. each team is responsible for their own grid. >> reporter: july 19th, a break in the case. nearly one month after daniel's disappearance, a local rancher
finds his jeep in a remote part of the desert in a 20-foot ravine four miles southwest from daniel's worksite. it was a heartbreaking moment for his parents. >> when i first looked at the vehicle, i literally go, oh my god this can't be real. am i watching a movie? >> reporter: photos provided by the police department show the vehicle to have rolled and landed on its side with air bags deployed. daniel's wallet, phone, keys found inside the car. a pile of his clothes found nearby. david says the buckeye police told him daniel may have crashed his vehicle and in doing so sustained a head injury. >> he said that he believed my son was delusional after the head injury, and he walked away and may have rested somewhere. >> reporter: the police have ruled out foul play. >> i decided to bring on a private investigator. i wasn't getting answers that i need. >> reporter: private investigator jeff mcgrath says he thoroughly examined daniel's car, including the car's so-called black box. he took out cameras to an
undisclosed location where daniel's vehicle is now being stored. >> we have a lot more investigating to do, but we have done a thorough inspection of this vehicle. >> reporter: he says what he found is at odds with the police theory. >> we have downloaded the infotainment system, that the phone connects into. that is how we were able to confirm the time and date that the air bags deployed. and that comes out to be about 1:00 in the afternoon on june 23rd. he went missing anywhere from 9:15 to 9:45 in the morning. and the u-connect tells us the air bags flew at about 1:00 p.m. so there's a time gap there. i don't know if somebody is joyriding in this car, found it, decided they wanted to crash it? if somebody was trying to make it look like somebody was injured or died in this vehicle? i just don't know what happened. >> reporter: mcgrath says he reached out to the buckeye police department to share his findings, but that communication with them has been difficult. >> i have relayed all my information to them.
i don't think they want to hear what i have to say. >> reporter: september 23rd, buckeye police department released a report outlining daniel's mental state in the days leading to his disappearance, saying daniel was acting odd at the job site, that he was behaving oddly with a young woman he met while working a side job at a food delivery service. over the weekend, daniel's family held that press conference, using it to also bring attention to other families with missing loved ones. >> michael bolden. dynasty graph. desiree hernandes. >> reporter: of the fbi's more than 89,000 active missing persons cases at the end of 2020, approximately 45% were people of color. >> we have natalee holloway, laci peterson, caylee anthony, shonda levy, elizabeth smart, gabby petito. those names roll off my tongue. but not one person, not one, can name a person of color, male or
female, black or brown, that has garnered mainstream media. not one. >> you've been at this for 14 years. why not give up if things haven't changed? >> we're not going to sit here and wait on someone else to carry the torch. we saw a problem, and in order to correct the problem, you have to be willing to provide a solution. so we identified the problem. so now we are working to help our families. we are working to help us find us. >> reporter: abc news reached out to the buckeye police department for comment. they told us investigators have maintained an open line of communication with mr. robinson and his private investigator. they also said they are utilizing every resource possible to locate daniel, including assistance from upon agencies and information provided by the public. they said they conducted four ground searches and three aerial searches. for now, daniel's parents hold on to hope that their son will
be found. >> every time we end our phone calls, "i love you mama, we will talk later." i hang on to that. if he says we're going to talk later, i women talk to him later. >> i plan to stay in arizona until my son is found. i'm here for my family. i'm staying on the front line for them also. when he can't be here, i need to be here. we have to have somebody here until he's found. >> our thanks to byron. up next, why the 44th president chose the south side of chicago for his presidential library. robin roberts sits down exclusively with barack obama. tomorrow on "nightline," pb. baby, one more time, in court fighting for her freedom. fighting for her freedom. ♪ hit me baby one more time ♪ ba ? it's neutrogena® rapid wrinkle repair®
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♪ former president barack obama says he wants his library to do more than house old campaign memorabilia and the former first lady's ball gowns. instead of looking back, he wants to look forward. here's abc's robin roberts. >> one of the things that makes history real for people is when they can see objects that were part of that history. >> look at that baby face. >> i can't believe that anybody would entrust somebody that young with anything, much less a seat in the u.s. senate. when i look at this young man in the picture i think, i'm glad that he was idealistic enough to think that he could actually pull it off. >> reporter: from the senate to the white house and the journey
along the way. former president barack obama cementing his legacy with a groundbreaking of his presidential center. just talk about the importance of having your center here. not just in chicago, but the south side of chicago. >> well, we are sitting in the south shore cultural center where michelle and i had our reception after our wedding. almost 30 years ago. my announcement for my fairs political office was right down the street. you've got the hospital where my daughters were born. just about everything that's important to me in my life started here. >> reporter: the center, a blueprint for success. the vision crafted alongside the former first lady. it's the obamas' ambitious project to uplift their south side community. >> the idea was to build a campus where we could not only talk about my presidency, but more importantly, create a living, breathing institution that was helping to train and promote and encourage young
leaders and citizenso inlved, beactive, effective change agents in the world. >> reporter: by his side during his time in office, joe biden, who's now facing multiple challenges in his first year. an ongoing pandemic. a crisis at the border. and a battle over his infrastructure proposal. this is a really important moment in his administration. needing to pass comprehensive legislation. how do you think he is handling this particular moment? >> the "build black america" program is something america desperately needs. it's got a headline price tag of $3.5 trillion. but that's not a single year. this is spread out over a number of years. and, most importantly, it's paid for by asking the wealthiest of americans to pay a few percentage points more in taxes in order to make sure that we
have an economy that's fair for everybody. so -- >> but you could be concerned that that's how they're going to have to pay for it? >> they can afford it. we can afford it. i put myself in this category now. i think anybody who pretends it's a hardship for billionaires to pay a little bit more in taxes so that a single mom gets child care support, or so that we can make sure that our communities aren't inundated by wildfires and floods and we're doing something about climate change for the next generation? you know, that's an argument that is unsustainable. >> the other big story, the images coming out from the border in texas with the haitian immigrants. in 2010 when they had that devastating earthquake, your administration allowed haitians under a special temporary legal status here in the u.s. but now we're seeing under the current administration sending them back to an island in crisis. how do you square what we're
seeing right now? >> immigration is tough, it left side has been. because on the one hand, i think we are naturally a people that wants to help others. at the same time, we're a nation-state. we have borders. the idea that we can just have open borders is something that i think as a practical matter is unsustainable. the way we solve this problem is to have a smarter, more efficient, more effective immigration system. >> having been in the white house for eight years, when you are turning on the news, how do you handle it? >> we've gone through really tough times in this country. much worse than this. i think the most important thing for us to do is not be complacent. it starts with each of us deciding, here's where i can make a difference, in this neighborhood, this school, this community, this city. >> reporter: which is exactly
why he and his wife, michelle, have made it their mission to invest in their community. according to the obama foundation, the project is estimated to generate $3.1 billion in economic impact and bring 700,000 visitors to the area each year to stimulate additional economic growth. >> i am always -- always have been a believer that the space that we live in and move in affects our moods, our spirits, our dreams. and we think that this center in a community that so oftentimes is reported on as, what's wrong with it? that this gives people an opportunity to say, we matter. we count. >> reporter: their goal, to bring change and hope to the south side, a community that has been plagued by gun violence. when you hear about chicago, that's the first thing. how do we change that? >> well, look.
violent crime and violence generally in low-income communities, inner-city communities in america, is nothing new. but chicago alone can't stop the easy access and flood of guns into these communities. but what we can do is potentially give young people the sense that there's another way for them to empower themselves other than wielding a gun. >> reporter: empowering young men and women is exactly what the obamas plan to achieve with their new presidential center, set to be completed by 2025. what's most important for your next act? >> the single most important thing i can do is grab grab grab 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 or million baracks and michelles and maybe make the path just a little easier for them to make a difference. and if the center and the foundation that we put together is helping to plant that seed and empower a whole next
generation of young leaders, that's a better and more important leg whyacy to me than anything i got done myself. >> our thanks to robin. when we come back, a "final note." i don't just play someone brainy on tv - i'm an actual neuroscientist. and i love the science behind neuriva plus. unlike ordinary memory supplements,
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♪ and that's "nightline" for tonight. watch all our full episodes on hulu. see you back here same time tomorrow. thanks for staying up with us. good night, america. every day in business brings something new. so get the flexibility of the new mobile service designed for your small business. introducing comcast business mobile.
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