The whole city is looking for Avonte Oquendo. There are regular announcements on trains and in the subway. There are missing posters on lampposts, buses and store windows. People have taken to social media to look for Oquendo.
It has been two weeks since the 14-year-old autistic teenager walked out of his school, the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, Queens. He has not been seen since. The heartrending search for him has gripped the city. The agonizing, widespread search has continued beyond New York City with help from officials in New Jersey and Long Island, and a reward of up to $70,000 has been offered for his safe return.
On Oct. 4, Oquendo, a resident of Rego Park who is unable to communicate verbally, was seen on surveillance video walking out of the Center Boulevard School, located on 51st Avenue, and running across the street. The 5-foot-3-inch Black teen was last seen on video wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers.
The teen’s fascination with trains led police and transit workers to search underground tracks on Saturday halting repairs and construction, according to reports. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has deployed about 100 cops and a detective task force in the search of Oquendo.
Daniel Aquendo, Sr., father of Avonte Oquendo, holds the front page of the Amsterdam News featuring his missing son.
(L to R) search leader Donnell Nichols, activist Calvin Hunt and Daniel Oquendo, Sr.
Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, Queens where Avonte Oquendo was last seen.
Daniel Oquendo, Jr., brother of Avonte Oquendo.
“I believe that he is still alive and we are going full force to locate him,” NYPD Chief of Department Phillip Banks III told the AmNews at press time on Wednesday. “We are using an enormous amount of resources to try and find him. We have a detective task force and a patrol task force coordinating with aviation, harbor, emergency services. We are connecting with all law enforcement [from] Suffolk County, Nassau County and New Jersey.”
In an interview with the AmNews, Daniel Oquendo Sr., Avonte Oquendo’s father, asked New Yorkers to help in the search. Several volunteers have been looking around the city for his son.
“There are so many blocks out here. It would take an individual about three minutes to come outside and walk around the block one time,” he said. “Everyone is coming together; we have a lot of volunteers out here.”
Daniel Oquendo said that his son would be able to get food if he needed it. Having grown up with five brothers, Avonte Oquendo knows how to survive. “If he was hungry, he would take food. I’m sure he’s got a little survival skills when it comes to that. Growing up with big brothers in the house, he was always snatching food. He wouldn’t let himself starve, but I really don’t think … It’s been 12 days. I really think if he was still outside, someone would have seen him by now. But we are definitely trying to look at every scenario out there.
“We are a very close family, and we’re trying to hold it down just for the boys,” Daniel Oquendo said. “They are very close, and they had a lot to do with his upbringing. We are very attached, so if we lose him, it’s over for me.