The fourth Ethiopian athlete missing since Saturday morning from the World Junior Championships track meet in Eugene was located safe by police Tuesday evening in Federal Way, Wash., a University of Oregon Police Department spokesman said.
Zeyituna Mohammed, 18, was contacted at the residence of an acquaintance by Federal Way police, at the request of the UO Police Department, spokesman Kelly McIver said. Federal Way is just north of Tacoma.
The university police had been investigating a missing persons case since late last Friday, when two Ethiopian track team coaches reported about 11 p.m. that four athletes had not checked in at their UO residence hall.
The four athletes — three 18-year-old women and a 17-year-old male — reportedly had left the area by choice with an acquaintance, but police needed to positively confirm the athletes’ safety, McIver said.
Three of the athletes were found safe in Beaverton on Monday afternoon: Amanuel Abebe Atibeha, 17; and Dureti Edao and Meaza Kebede, both 18.
Earlier Tuesday, McIver said police do not know whether the athletes plan to seek political asylum.
“That’s always a question when you have international visitors, especially in an area where there’s unrest,” McIver said.
Sharon Rummery, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in San Francisco, said the agency does not release the names of individuals applying for any immigration services, including asylum, due to federal privacy law.
McIver said the Ethiopian athletes are in the United States legally and can stay per the terms of their visas.
Although foul play was not suspected, UO police were leading the missing persons investigation, with help from Eugene police, Portland police and the FBI, among other agencies.
The missing persons case for the four athletes is now closed, and the university and its police department will have no further information about their situation, McIver said. Law enforcement’s only interest was in confirming the safety of the individuals, he said.
McIver said Tuesday morning that UO police do not know why three of the athletes were in Beaverton. He said the athletes traveled to the city by vehicle, but he did not know whom they traveled with.
“No clear messages were left from the athletes,” he said of any motive for leaving the international track meet early.
Most people who come into the country for non-work reasons are issued tourist visas that typically allow them to stay in the country for six months, a local immigration law attorney previously said.
Mohammed ran in 800-meter race heats at last week’s track meet. She qualified to compete in the final on Thursday and came in sixth place.
The six-day International Association of Athletics Federations event drew athletes from at least 167 countries. The meet concluded Sunday.