UPDATE: 14-Year-Old Autistic Boy Still Missing
Avonte Oquendo is a 14-year-old boy last seen running away from his school in New York on Oct. 4. However, unlike other boys and girls his age, Avonte is a special needs child who is autistic and mute. He was directed by a school safety agent at the front door to go back upstairs, but Avonte was seen going down the hallway and exiting through a side door. We see nothing that concludes a misconduct with the school, but Avonte’s family say they were not contacted for hours after he went missing.
Members of the autistic community, family, friends and strangers joined together to search high and low, but its day 12 and Avonte is still missing. Police Chief Phillip Banks said the disappearance hit a personal note with investigators that have everyone rooting for Avonte’s return. Hundreds of officers have been searching for the teen. His parents say he loves trains. Police have checked all 468 train stations, every tunnel, abandoned station and bathroom. Divers searched the East River near the school.
“Please bring him back, don’t keep him if you have him,” said grandmother Doris McCoy, who is convinced someone has her grandson and that he is still alive. “Be good to him. Don’t abuse him. Don’t hurt him.” Volunteers have come from near and far to help in the search. Rick Stripp drove his new RV from Stanhope, New Jersey to Long Island City Tuesday so Avonte’s family will no longer have to huddle outside in the cold as they effort their search for him.
Volunteer Julius Cannon said, “When you have an individual who can’t speak and communicate for himself, that touches the heart.”
The reward for information leading to Avonte’s safe return is up to $70,000. Anyone with information is asked to please call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.
Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. Authorities say that if you do see him, call authorities first and then follow the boy, because he may run if you approach him too quickly.