Police plead with public to keep looking for Avonte Oquendo

Family and police continue the search for 14 year-old missing child, Missing child, Avonte Oquendo.
Police are not letting up in their search for Avonte Oquendo, the department’s highest-ranking officer insisted on Sunday.
Credit: Bess Adler

After comments by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last week suggested the NYPD was readying to scale back their efforts in the search for missing 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, it appeared on Sunday that the NYPD was eager to make clear that they were by no means giving up.

Avonte is autistic and cannot speak. He went missing from his school in Queens over three weeks ago on Oct. 4.

Chief of Police Philip Banks III pointedly held a press conference at the site in Long Island City where Avonte was last seen, despite the fact that the press conference was called at least in part due to a murder that occurred in Brooklyn late Sunday night.

Banks pleaded with the press to keep attention on the missing boy, and emphasized that the police search is still on.

“We are continuing our efforts to find this young man and to bring him home to his family,” Banks said.

He pressed the importance of the public’s assistance in the search as well.

“We have eight million people in the city,” Banks said. “We want to get as many eyes as possible in the hopes of finding this young man.”

Banks acknowledged that “it’s been quite some time now” since Avonte went missing, and said there are no real updates.

“We don’t have any new leads to report, we don’t have any new information, but we’re still using all of our resources,” the police chief maintained.

Those resources include aviation, K-9 officers, daily patrols of the Long Island City area where Avonte went missing. The harbor unit is also involved, Banks said, including scuba divers “who are diving every single day.” The school where Avonte was last seen is right by the East River in Queens.

The police are still continuing to do sweeps of the transit system as well, Banks said. Avonte is autistic and had a fascination with trains and the subway. He has run away three times before, and each time was found on or near the subway.

“We’re still looking,” the police chief insisted. “We still have our resources dedicated to this.”

Banks said many members of the NYPD have grown emotionally invested in the search for Avonte.

He denied that the NYPD is scaling back their efforts at all, but said there is constant discussion of how best to proceed, and based on those discussions, adjustments are sometimes made.

“We evaluate the totality of the circumstances and we make adjustments,” he said. “Adjustments could mean we put more detectives on it and less patrol cops, we put more aviation — that’s a discussion we have, it’s almost a daily discussion on how we’re going to shift our resources but to keep the focus on how we’re going to find the young man.”

As for Kelly’s controversial comments last week suggesting Avonte might not be found alive, Banks allowed that beliefs regarding Avonte’s status may vary person-to-person.

“That’s an individual decision everybody has to make,” Banks said. “I’d like to think that he’s still alive and we’re going forth like he’s still alive.”

The Oquendo family’s lawyer, David Perecman, who organized a press conference near the same location on Friday, said he was happy to hear that the police were not going to scale back the search, but believed they already had to some degree.

“Initially I heard 100 detectives, last time I heard 80,” he said. “Eighty’s still a lot, but it’s not 100.”

The NYPD did not immediately respond to an attempt to confirm the number of detectives, though Banks had earlier specifically said tweaking the numbers of officers and detectives involved in the search was something considered while making adjustments to the search strategy.

Perecman believes the NYPD’s press conference on Sunday was in part because of his press conference on Friday “and perhaps some other things that happened behind the scenes.”

NYPD spokesman John McCarthy confirmed Kelly met with Avonte’s father Saturday and Perecman said the police commissioner apologized for his statements expressing doubt over Avonte’s well-being.

The reward being offered for Avonte’s return is now up to around $90,000, Perecman confirmed. The reward is not being offered by the NYPD, but by private funding, largely through donations. Perecman said the family has stopped accepting reward donations, however, out of concern that if someone has abducted Avonte, they might be keeping him longer in the hopes that the reward amount will continue to rise.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Bloomberg: Going green will grant you longer life…

Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg tells Metro that cities are where fighting global warming can make a difference, and increase people’s lifespan.

International

Ban Ki Moon: "Climate change is an issue…

My message to you is: make your voice heard and your actions count. Change is in the air. Solutions exist. The race is on. It’s time to lead.

Local

Earth Day New York food toolkits to help…

Hundreds of classrooms across New York City already have indoor container gardens that allow students to grow food right where they learn. But Earth Day…

Local

NYPD announces street closures for United Nations General…

The United Nations representatives are in town, and multiple city streets will be closed to traffic through Saturday, Sept. 26. The NYPD is urging those…

The Word

The Word: Kris and Bruce Jenner's predictably public…

They said it wouldn't last — mostly because of that separation almost a year ago. And now, more than a year later, Kris and Bruce…

Movies

Antoine Fuqua knows how to kill a man…

It's amazing what you can get done with the right tools. In designing the climactic battle in "the Equalizer," in which Denzel Washington's retired special…

Television

10 Facts you won’t learn about Frankie Grande…

Frankie Grande is the worst and/or the best. Whether or not you're a fan, you'll want to know these facts about the polarizing player from "Big Brother 16."

Movies

Guess Ben Kingsley's worst filmmaking experience

Here's a fun game: Sir Ben Kingsley has made a lot of films since "Gandhi" in 1982, but at least one of them was a…

NFL

3 things that went wrong in Jets loss…

The Jets have very little room for error with a far-from-explosive offense.

NFL

Eli Manning finally feeling good in West Coast…

The Giants have very little time before their next game, but they still took a moment to relish the team’s biggest offensive outburst since Week 1 of 2013.

College

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close…

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close in on FSU

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

Wellbeing

Exercising leads to more drinking — and we…

  We’re rewarding ourselves with more than dessert on days we exercise, according to a new study. On days when people exercise more, typically Thursday…

Wellbeing

5 gadgets to protect you from sharks, concussions,…

The medical industry is inundated with devices looking after all aspects of your wellbeing, from monitoring your sleep patterns to warding off shark attacks. We…

Wellbeing

Narcissism and the ugly side of vanity

I have a friend who constantly talks about herself and rarely asks any questions about my life. She is constantly preening, obsessed with her body,…

Wellbeing

Lacking new ideas, Apple Watch disappoints health experts

Technology pundits were quick to predict the demise of most fitness wristbands and smartwatches when the Apple Watch was announced. But health care professionals and…