NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The family of a missing autistic boy was crushed Wednesday, after police thought they had found the boy and told the family so – but later announced they had actually found a different missing child.
As CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, Avonte Oquendo, 14, has been missing since Friday when he vanished from his school. The search for Oquendo has now resumed.
“It’s been a roller coaster – a bad roller coaster – but we’re still staying positive,” Oquendo’s father said.
Around 3:25 p.m., the teen’s older brother and several others involved in the search were told by police that Oquendo had been found alive at 123rd Street and Lexington Avenue in East Harlem. Police also announced to the news media that Oquendo had been found.
But the family’s celebration was short-lived, because the boy police found was not Oquendo.
“Eventually a few of us got there to the hospital and realized it’s not him,” Daniel Oquendo said. “It hurts because you do want things to end, but somebody’s child was found — just not ours — but we’ll continue to pray and look.”
Earlier, Avonte Oquendo’s father made a desperate plea.
“You know, do your best,” “If you see him, snatch him up. Let somebody know, and try to hold him,” Oquendo’s father said.
Oquendo was last seen on school surveillance video leaving the Center Boulevard School on 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:30 p.m. Friday.
Though Oquendo is supposed to be supervised constantly at the school, video showed him running down a hallway and then out onto the street. No aid or guard is seen on the video.
The Department of Education is refusing to answer questions about how Oquendo left the building so easily but said they are cooperating with police, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported.
Police have intensified their search for the vulnerable teen, who cannot communicate verbally, after someone thought they had spotted him at an Astoria, Queens diner Monday night.
“We deployed the bloodhounds there. We were able to trace the young person to a subway station, and we have not been able to confirm that it’s him,” said police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
On Tuesday night, Daniel Oquendo was passing out fliers and retracing the footsteps his missing brother may have taken through Astoria.
“This was, I believe, the last possible sighting around here around 30th, 31st Avenue around Steinway there are diners I’m going to walk past,” he said.
Police have been plastering the teen’s picture everywhere, looking at places familiar to him and even combing train yards and subway tunnels in hopes for a sign.
“This young man apparently had a fascination with trains, so we’re going forward on that,” Kelly said.
Friends, family members and even strangers also have been putting up signs.
“Now we’re on day five and it’s devastating, but we all have very strong will power,” Daniel Oquendo said. “We’re out here. We’re looking.”
Police said the young man they found in East Harlem had been missing since Tuesday morning. His identity has not been released.
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