Missing FSU student found alive in woods, deputies say

300 law enforcement officers, volunteers took part in search effort

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A missing Florida State University student from southwest Miami-Dade County was found alive Sunday afternoon in a wooded area on the outskirts of Tallahassee, authorities said.

Deputies began searching for 19-year-old Justin Shields after he had not been seen or heard from since Wednesday. 

On Friday, the Leon County Sheriff's Office said, his car was found about 20 miles away from the FSU campus. 

A massive search ensued. Between volunteers and law enforcement, roughly 300 people took part in the search effort.

After four days, Shields' family finally got news he had been found alive.

“It's a great day when you can come together as law enforcement agencies, as emergency management, the drone team, the dogs, the K-9s. It took everyone. It took a collective effort to bring this to a happy conclusion,” said Florida State University Police Chief David L. Perry.

Deputies said Shields was delirious and dehydrated,  but ultimately unharmed, when he was found about 4 p.m. Sunday in a wooded area about a mile from where his vehicle was located.

“He had been out in the elements for quite some time and our first and utmost responsibility was, our focus was trying to get him some medical assistance,” said Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil.

Authorities said Shields was Baker Acted following his discovery.

“Per HIPPA laws we can't get into the, part of the Baker Act we can't go into exactly what caused that,” said Deputy Dave Teems, with the Sheriff's Office.

As of Monday afternoon, Shields was still in the hospital. Authorities had not yet been able to interview him to find out exactly why he was in the woods.

“We are waiting to speak with him until we can make sure that he's in the best health possible that we can get a good interview from him,” Teems said.

The Sheriff’s Office said no other persons were connected to the disappearance and foul play was not suspected.

Authorities have indicated Shields will not likely be charged with any crimes.

The university declined to comment on this story, citing privacy issues.