Missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham apparently entered a restaurant with a man she encountered on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, then left with him in a car 15 minutes later, police said Friday.
Police Chief Timothy Longo told a late afternoon press conference that video showed Graham, 18, who vanished early last Saturday, with a man he described as a 32-year-old black male, 6 feet two inches, 270 pounds, with dreadlocks.
He did not identify the man or label him a suspect but said “we’re interested in him.”
The man was one of three people present at a home police entered earlier in the day with a warrant after examining a car. Longo said there was no probable cause to arrest the individual and “not a sufficient legal basis” to detain him.
Det. Sgt. Jim Mooney said the pair entered the restaurant, where the man purchased alcohol, and “within 15 minutes they were gone. His car was seen leaving the area” and, Mooney said, “we have every reason to believe” Graham was inside.
Police, including Charlottesville's forensic officers and police from Albemarle County began searching four units in an apartment complex late Friday morning, the Charlottesville Daily Progress reported. Longo said the wider search came after evidence was found in a vehicle parked in the Hessian Hills neighborhood.
"Last night, we developed some additional information that brought us to this location to execute a search warrant on the vehicle," Longo said earlier Friday. "That vehicle has since been removed from this location so that that warrant could be executed.
"During the time period in which we were seizing that vehicle on this property here in Albemarle County, we developed sufficient probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the residences located behind me," he added.
Virginia's Department of Emergency Management asked community members to register for a mass search for Graham, scheduled for Saturday. It was not clear where the search would focus.
Graham was reported missing on Sunday when friends and family realized that they had not seen or heard from her since the night of September 12-13.
Surveillance video released by authorities late Wednesday shows Graham walking past an Italian restaurant and and a jewelry store at a mall in Charlottesville, Va. The video is timestamped just after 1 a.m. on the morning of September 13. A man is seen walking in front of Graham, but the man later stops and is then seen walking behind her. Authorities say the man on the video has come forward and spoken with police. He said that he was following Graham to see if she needed help. The man also told police he saw a second man put his arm around Graham.
Authorities say the mall was more than a mile and a half away from a party that Graham attended Friday night.
A final text from Graham's cell phone was sent at approximately 1:20 a.m. Saturday.
Earlier this week, Longo said police "don't have any substantial evidence" supporting fears of foul play, despite the release of another video showing Graham running. She slowed to a walk toward the end of that video, which Longo said indicates she was not being pursued.
However, Hannah's parents, John and Susan, released a statement saying, "It is totally out of character for us not to have heard from her, and we fear foul play."
The new videos and an eyewitness' tip prompted police to canvass downtown businesses. A team of detectives went door-to-door at bookstores, bars and restaurants in the hope of recovering more surveillance videos, police Capt. Gary Pleasants said.
Longo said Graham met friends for dinner at a restaurant Friday night, dropped by parties at two off-campus housing units and left the second one alone. She sent several texts, including the one indicating she was lost, but Longo said he "didn't get the sense there was fear" in any of the messages.
He also said Graham had been drinking that night. He said police released that information to emphasize that she may have been unusually vulnerable and her judgment may have been impaired.
Mooney, the lead investigator, said police have interviewed about 50 people so far in the case.
The search for the student, who was born in England but has lived in Virginia since she was 5, has involved local police, the Virginia State Police, University of Virginia police and the FBI, which is processing leads, Pleasants said. The search has also included canine teams and helicopters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.