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Boy who went viral in demonstration pic now missing after parents, siblings die in crash


WOODLAND, Wash. — A young boy who went viral in a photo of himself hugging a police officer during a 2014 demonstration in Portland has been reported missing after his parents and siblings died in a crash.

Devonte Hart, 15, was adopted by Jen and Sarah Hart.

Both women, along with three of their children, were killed after the car they were in drove off a cliff on State Route 1 south of Juan Creek Monday.

The three children found ejected from the car were later identified as 19-year-old Markis Hart, 14-year-old Jeremiah Hart and 14-year-old Abigail Hart.

Jennifer and Sarah's three other children, 15-year-old Devonte Hart, 16-year-old Hannah Hart and 12-year-old Sierra Hart have been reported missing.

On Wednesday, California Highway Patrol said they believe the missing children were also in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

They added that investigators "have no reason to believe that this was an intentional act."

The Harts lived just outside Woodland, Wash. with their six adopted children.

Clark County sheriff's Sgt. Brent Waddell told the Associated Press that Child Protective Services recently visited the family's home. He said the sheriff's office later entered the house and found no obvious signs of trouble or violence.

Devonte went viral in November 2014 when a freelance photographer snapped a photo of him hugging a police officer.

It was a photo that touched a nation in the midst of demonstrations after a grand jury declined to indict a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer for shooting Michael Brown, an African American man.

KATU News spoke with Johnny Nguyen, the freelance photographer who snapped the photo several years ago.

"I was like, 'hey, what's your name? He said, 'My name is Devonte.' And I asked, 'Do you know what's going on?' He said, 'a protest?' I asked, 'Do you know why?' He said, 'yeah.' And I said, 'Do you think it's good or bad.' And he didn't say anything. He just broke down and cried," Nguyen continued.

Nguyen nodded and took a few picture of the crowd. By the time he turned back around, he says, Devonte was speaking with Sgt. Bret Barnum.

"I just motioned for him to come on over. And he slowly came on over and he was a little trembly [sic]," Sgt. Barnum said. "First thing I said was, 'Why are you crying? 'He said he was sad - He was sad about the protest. He was sad about what was going on in the world and all I could do was just sigh."

The two talked about school and vacations and as the conversation came to a natural end, "I just looked down at his sign which he set down on the ground. I'd seen him holding it earlier and I saw it said 'free hugs' and I pointed to it and I said, 'do I get one of those?'" Barnum continued.

The rest is captured - forever - in the now famous image.

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