CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO
Following an extensive search for autistic teen Avonte Oquendo who went missing from his Long Island City school three weeks ago, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly is saying police are not hopeful he will be found alive.
“Obviously we have devoted a tremendous amount of resources to the search,” Kelly told WABC New York Thursday. “Unfortunately, we are not hopeful that we’re going to find this young man alive, but we are continuing our search.”
The teen’s brother, Daniel Oquendo, was upset by Kelly’s comment, and is still positive they will find Avonte alive.
“NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly says we won’t find Avonte alive. His 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,” he said through a post on his Instagram account.
“Luckily we have the community on our side. With all your help we WILL find Avonte.”
Earlier this week, Kelly said the NYPD may need to scale back its search for the teen, according to reports.
Avonte, 14, was last seen at 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 conflicting 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.
However, according to reports, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the school safety officer did nothing wrong.
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 $89,500 with 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.
Oquendo was last wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.