A heartbroken Queens family is still holding out hope nearly a week after a 14-year-old autistic boy disappeared from his school in Long Island City.
The desperate search for Avonte Oquendo continues Thursday, but there are few clues to his possible whereabouts.
At least 10 police cruisers rolled out early in the day to continue to look for the boy, who is non-verbal and was last seen on surveillance video running out of the Center Boulevard School unsupervised.
“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.”
Police blanketed the area with flyers with the boy’s picture and spent Wednesday searching scaffolding, rooftops and anywhere they could think to look.
Oquendo’s family is trying to stay strong and hoping he is found soon.
“I know they’re going through hours and hours of surveillance, so we’re just waiting to see if they get anything from that,” brother Daniel Oquendo, Jr., said. “But in the meantime, we’re just going to try what we can and search, search everywhere.”
The family says the boy has wandered off before, and that on previous occasions, he was found on the subway.
The subway and subway tunnels have been a key location that authorities have been searching, but so far they have come up empty.
The family now claims that a security guard saw Oquendo leave and did nothing to stop him, and also waited a long time to inform them.
“And she said, ‘I saw him and I stopped and asked him, where are you going?'” McCoy said. “‘And he turned around and looked at me and just walked out.'”
The Oquendo family and their attorney said Wednesday they plan to file a notice of claim, but their main focus is finding him.
“We understand that a security guard apparently knew that the child left, and despite the knowledge that child left, the school didn’t notify the parent for a full hour,” attorney David Perecman said. “In an hour, this poor boy could have gone who knows where.”
Vanessa Fontaine, the boy’s mother, says watching surveillance video of her son running gives her a pit in her stomach that consists not only of fear, but also anger that nothing more was done.
“I just cry,” she said. “I can’t watch it because there he is in the school, and not far from him, the security guard is sitting there, and she lets him walk out the door. It’s horrible.”
Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.