Reward for missing autistic teen increased to $75K as search continues two weeks later


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com |

Photo Courtesy NYPD
Photo Courtesy NYPD

After two weeks since Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his Long Island City School, the police continue to expand the search for the autistic teen releasing a new photo of Avonte and the shirt he was wearing.

After two weeks since Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his Long Island City School, the search continues for the lovable autistic teen.

Avonte, 14, was last seen leaving the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been mixed reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school, said the family’s attorney, David Perecman.

According to Avonte’s grandmother, the security guard appointed to the front of the school said she had seen Avonte running towards the door, asked him where he was going and after he did not respond, she just allowed him to leave because she did not know he was a special needs student.  Yet, according to Perecman, no student at the school is allowed to leave the property until dismissal.

Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, previously told The Courier the school “failed her” when they took close to an hour to inform her that Avonte had gone missing.

However, according to reports, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the school safety officer did nothing wrong and investigations show she did what she had to do.

The NYPD has officers searching the streets daily for the boy, who family says loves trains, and looking for him by helicopter and with divers. Recently, the police has been driving around in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers echoing Avonte’s mother’s calls.

Avonte’s family also sought the help from the Texas Equusearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team, a group of volunteers that have helped find numerous missing people throughout the country.

The team said it would be traveling to the site on Friday, October 18 and would “evaluate the situation” to determine if they have resources to help search for Avonte.

The family has filed a notice of claim to sue the City of New York for $25 million, taking claims of negligence against both the Department of Education and the Special Security Division which provide the security agents for the school.

An initial $5,000 reward for Avonte’s return was offered by Mayerson & Associates, a New York Law Firm which represents individuals with autism. Manhattan Children’s Center, a nonprofit private autism school, announced it was matching the law firm’s offer with an additional $5,000 from the Gelb Family Foundation.

Since then, the reward has increased to $75,000 through the support of Health First, the employer of the missing teen’s mother, Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, David Perecman of the Perecman Firm, and an anonymous donor, according to Autism Speaks.

Reverend Al Sharpton will hold a community outreach rally on Saturday, October 19 at 9:30 a.m. at the National Action Network headquarters located at 106 West 145th Street in Manhattan.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

The NYPD has released a new photo of Avonte together with an image of the shirt he was wearing the day he went missing.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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