NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A boy who was photographed on the subway is not a missing autistic teen from Queens, police said Thursday.
The picture shows a young man on a subway train who bears a striking resemblance to 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo. A 13-year-old boy took the picture on Tuesday and later posted it on his Facebook page.
But police said Thursday that the boy in the photo went with his mother to see police.
Avonte, who cannot communicate verbally, was last seen on surveillance video leaving the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4.
Avonte’s father, who arrived at a search command center set up near the school Thursday morning, said the photo did raise his hopes, which are now dashed.
“Any parent in this situation needs any bit of hope,” Daniel Oquendo said. “It’s tough just a tough situation right now but we’re hoping for the best.”
Oquendo said he’s not giving up on finding his son.
“You always got to stay hopeful. I mean, you try not to think too much on the negative side. We don’t know the bad side so there’s no sense in dwelling on that. Just gotta move on and stay hopeful,” he told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “It’s a recurring nightmare so until we find him, that’s what we’re all looking forward to.”
Other volunteers at the command center also had high hopes and many were disappointed when they heard the news.
“I’m a little saddened,” said volunteer Eric Wright. “We’re not going to give up.”
“We just still have faith that he’s out there somewhere and we’ll continue to search and hopefully we’ll find him soon,” another volunteer said.
The photo shows a boy sitting and looking straight ahead. He’s wearing a beige jacket and green khaki pants. Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black shoes.
Investigators tracked down the teen who snapped the picture and he told them he couldn’t get the boy to engage in conversation.
Since Avonte’s disappearance, police have tracked down about 500 leads, but so far none have panned out.
“We’ve seen a lot of photos turn out to be dead ends and not him,” said Avonte’s brother Anthony Fontaine.
Avonte’s family said they’re thankful people are alert and looking for him, but had a strong message for anyone who thinks they see Avonte.
“If you see him, please contact the police,” Fontaine said. “Don’t take a pic. Please just let everybody know that it’s Avonte Oquendo.”
Avonte is 5-foot-3 and weighs 125 pounds. 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 $95,000.
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