Avonte Oquendo’s Family Rallies With Rev. Al Sharpton For Extensive Search
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The family of Avonte Oquendo, the autistic teen who has been missing for more than two weeks, appealed to the public to help find the boy at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Saturday.
Avonte is 5-foot-3 and weighs 125 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black shoes.
Sharpton issued a community alert for Avonte at the event, and National Action Network members pledged to canvass the city in search of the boy. Avonte’s father appeared on Sharpton’s radio show Saturday morning.
“Everybody – take the time out to look – five minutes. Come out your house, back around the block. Be aware of your surroundings,” said Avonte’s father, Daniel Oquendo. “When you’re going to work – walking to the train – just keep your eyes open.”
On Saturday night search parties fanned out across all seven quadrants of Central Park, CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported.
It was the fifteenth night of searching and more volunteers have joined as Avonte’s family spread their message.
Volunteer Abena Smith saw a search van blasting Avonte’s mother’s voice over a loud speaker. The tactic moved her to tears, and then to action.
“My son is also non-verbal and I’m able to relate to what this mother is going through,” Smith said.
Multiple agencies are now involved in the search, Daniel Oquendo said.
“All the agencies are working hard, but we also brought in a couple others, and we’re definitely trying to get a big group so we can kind of scour the whole city, section by section,” he said.
The detailed search of Central Park required a grid system organizer Donnell Nichols explained.
“They’re covering that zone only. They are not overlapping,” Nichols said, “To do Central Park you need to coordinate.”
Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said she doesn’t wish the family’s plight on anybody.
“It feels like eternity every day, you know, just waiting to hear news,” she said. “It’s just terrible – it’s just like a nightmare I can’t wake up from.”
More than 100 police academy recruits joined the search Friday for Avonte Oquendo, who was last spotted on surveillance video leaving the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, Queens on Oct. 4.
A $70,000 reward is being offered by the group Autism Speaks for information about his whereabouts. In all, the reward is up to about $85,000, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
A Facebook page has also been set up where people can share information and coordinate volunteer search efforts.
Since his disappearance, police, relatives and volunteers have blanketed the city with fliers and have combed through train stations, subway lines, and waterways. The nonverbal boy loves trains, according to authorities.
New York City subway riders have seen fliers taped to station support columns, and heard announcements from train conductors urging them to keep their eyes open.
“We’ve got a lot of resources, a lot of success,” EquuSearch founder Tim Miller said. “We’ve got our horses and four wheelers and ground searchers, drone airplane, regular airplane, helicopter.”
The NYPD is also now using a new tactic to find Avonte. With the help of Citywide Disaster Services, police have been blasting the voice of Avonte’s mother, calling out to him.
“Hi Avonte. It’s mom. Come to the flashing lights,” the message says.
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.
Kelly said police have received at least 200 tips and have checked out 60 registered sex offenders in the area.
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