NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A search party is scouring train stations Thursday in the hunt for an autistic teenager from Queens who has been missing for nearly two weeks.
Avonte is 5-foot-3 and weighs 125 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black shoes.
Anyone with information is asked to contact NYPD Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit the Crime Stoppers website or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and enter TIP577.
The teen is non-verbal and his family says he has a fascination with trains. On Tuesday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the NYPD was expanding its search beyond the city with the help from authorities in New Jersey and Long Island.
Family members said earlier this week that they firmly believe Avonte is still alive.
“Maybe if he’s not out on the street, then somebody does have him and I just hope that whoever does have my brother, they just give him up please so we can have him back,” Avonte’s brother Daniel Oquendo said.
Some parents in the school community still want to know how Avonte, who was supposed to be supervised at all times, could be allowed to just walk out the door.
But police say a school safety officer is not to blame. She apparently stopped Avonte as he tried to exit the school a first time. His parents have filed a notice of claim against the city.
On Thursday, authorities stepped up their search for Avonte even further by blasting a message from the boy’s mother in hopes that he would hear it and come home, CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
“If he is hiding we’re trying to see if we can pull him out from wherever he’s hiding with the familiarity of her voice,” Daniel Oquendo said.
Avonte’s father was grateful for the creative new search tactic that could help locate his missing son.
On Wednesday, the non-profit Citywide Disaster Services joined the effort, they have also been playing Avonte’s mother’s message.
“We’re told Avonte responds well to his mother’s voice so we’re looping it over our system,” James O’Connell said.
Police have pulled out all of the technological stops in their search for the boy. Yesterday they scoured a nearby marsh using thermal imaging.
“See the individual? His body temp is hotter than the air temperature. So, that’s how we would locate an individual,” police explained.
An attorney for the Oquendo family praised the work that the NYPD was doing to find Avonte.
“Avonte being found and brought home is the most important thing and the police are doing a heroic job,” David Perecman said.
The family said that Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott called Avonte’s grandmother and apologized on Thursday. But, a Department of Education spokesperson said that Walcott reached out to let the family know his thoughts were with them.
Questions remain about how Avonte was able to make it off of school grounds.
Police Commissioner Kelly said that they had gotten at least 175 tips and checked out 60 registered sex offenders in the area.
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