Avonte Oquendo still missing: search continues for lost autistic boy

Family and police continue the search for 14 year-old missing child, Missing child, Avonte Oquendo.
Police outside the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City. Avonte Oquendo went missing from the school on Oct. 4 around lunchtime.
Credit: Bess Adler

As the search for 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo nears the two-week mark, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the police department has left no stone unturned.

“We’re obviously very concerned at this juncture,” Kelly said.

The Oquendo family’s lawyer, David Perecman, is suing the city over the boy’s disappearance. Last week, he recounted how a School Safety Agent, a member of the NYPD, reportedly told Avonte’s grandmother that she had seen him leaving and asked where he was going. When he didn’t respond — Avonte is autistic, and cannot communicate verbally — she let him go, Perecman said.

Today, Kelly said there is surveillance video disputing that report.

“She actually tells him to go back,” Kelly said.

Kelly said Avonte can be seen on the video slipping out an unguarded side door.

Police previously said Avonte has wandered off before, and a law enforcement official today recounted three known occasions.

When Avonte was about seven years old, he was found near the Fresh Pond subway, and when he was nine, he took the subway from his home in Jamaica to a station in Kew Gardens, where he got off and was found by transit police.

This past August, he wandered away from his home at 71st Avenue and was almost immediately found at the 67th Street subway station.

Because of this history and Avonte’s known fascination with trains and the subway in particular, police have kept a close eye on the underground transit system. Commissioner Kelly today said transit officers begin every tour of duty with a search for the young boy.

While Kelly said he had no updates as of Wednesday morning, he promised the NYPD was “using a significant amount of resources” in the search.

There is a special task force of detectives on the hunt for him, and Kelly has assigned an additional 50 uniformed officers whose sole duty for the time being is to look for Avonte full-time.

The school is located near the water, and divers and Harbor Unit police, as well as K-9 cops and NYPD helicopters, have also been helping.

Kelly today said “Operation Century,” a network of 140 law enforcement agencies throughout the Northeast, is also involved in in the search.

And in the city, a deluge of volunteers — from the Guardian Angels and the Vulcan Society to everyday citizens — have turned out to assist law enforcement and the family, posting fliers throughout the subway system and all over the city.

“We’re not giving up hope,” Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said firmly. “We’re just keeping on hope that we’ll find him anytime.”

She asked that New Yorkers stay vigilant in keeping an eye out for her son.

“Everyone just take a moment and look at every child that’s passing, and see if it’s him,” she urged. “And if you see him, don’t wait two hours or the next day… If you see him and you even think it’s him — call right away; stop that child!”

Oquendo’s autism has been a complicating factor in his disappearance: the fact that the boy is unable to communicate verbally has had authorities especially worried from the start. Fontaine said people should of course be cautious when approaching him, but not hesitate.

“Come up to him slowly, not aggressive, very slowly,” she said.

“Don’t try to grab him — he will pull back,” she warned.

Avonte will respond to his name, she said. She advised people “just follow him” and get the police on the phone.

“Say, ‘we’re heading this way.’ I’m sure police will get there quickly,” she said.

Fontaine was clearly moved by the outpouring of support for her and her child, and said she “can’t even count” how many people have come out and volunteered in the search.

“Thousands, from every community, every borough,” she marveled. “It’s beautiful. I’m so grateful for all their hard work and support towards me, it’s a beautiful thing.”

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.