NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Family, friends and countless volunteers remain determined to find an autistic boy from Queens who has now been missing for three weeks.
Avonte Oquendo, who cannot communicate verbally, was last spotted on surveillance video leaving the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4, an unauthorized departure from the school located on the East River, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported Friday.
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 reward for Avonte’s safe return is up to nearly $90,000.
Since his disappearance, searchers have blanketed the city with fliers and have combed through train stations, subway lines and waterways. Avonte has a fascination with trains, authorities said.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Thursday that while the search is continuing “we are not hopeful that we’re going to find this young man alive.”
That statement upset the child’s parents, who don’t want the search scaled back.
“We’ve been hearing that stuff from day one. So, if you allow that to get to you, you wouldn’t even be here right now,” Daniel Oquendo, Avonte’s father, said.
Kelly said Friday afternoon the NYPD is still very much on the case.
“We are continuing to put information out. We’re talking to jurisdictions in the northeast quadrant of the United States,” Kelly said.
Kelly said the case has 80 detectives assigned.
“We’ve gotten over 450 leads. We’re looking at a total of 196 pieces of video. Now, all of that video has not been gone through so many of detectives are assigned to going through the video,” said Kelly. “As far as those leads are concerned, all but 48 of those leads have been investigated and closed out.”
“We are continuing to devote significant resources to the effort,” Kelly added.
Avonte’s father pleaded with the public Thursday night to keep their eyes open for his son.
“We’re going to continue our search,” Daniel Oquendo said.
“I don’t want anyone else giving up looking for him. He’s still alive. He’s out there,” Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, added.
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