We will find Avonte Oquendo.
That is the message family and friends vehemently sent in response to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly saying he is “not hopeful” the 14-year-old Rego Park boy with autism who went missing earlier this month will be discovered alive.
“Obviously we have devoted a tremendous amount of resources to this search,” Kelly said to WABC New York last week. “Unfortunately, we are not hopeful that we’re going to find this young man alive, but we are continuing our search.”
Avonte Oquendo’s brother, Danny Oquendo, immediately issued a response on social media, writing Kelly’s “lack of faith in his own police force is very disturbing.
“This is a slap in the face to all those brave and valiant NYPD officers and volunteers that have worked tirelessly to find Avonte,” the brother wrote. “Luckily we have the community on our side. With all your help we WILL find Avonte.”
Avonte, who is unable to communicate verbally, has been missing since he managed to leave his Long Island City school unattended Oct. 4. The 14-year-old was last seen on surveillance video running out of the Center Boulevard School, located on 51st Avenue in Long Island City, according to police. Once it was realized that Avonte was missing, all 468 of the city’s subway stations were searched for the boy who his family said is particularly fascinated by trains.
Following the massive sweep of every station, Kelly enlisted the help of officials outside of the city, including in New Jersey and Long Island, to find the student whose disappearance has devastated his family.
Police divers have also searched Newtown Creek and the East River.
There is a reward of about $90,000 for the safe return of the teen.
Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5-foot-3 and weighs approximately 125 pounds.
Anyone with information about the missing child should call the NYPD at (800) 577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips by logging onto www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting tips to 274637 and then entering TIP577.
Family and friends continue to organize searches for Avonte. More information can be found at www.findAvonte.com.
By Anna Gustafson