NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD has sent out officers to investigate, after a teenager snapped a photo of someone resembling the missing autistic teen Avonte Oquendo.
The 13-year-old boy took the photo Tuesday on an E or F line train, police told CBS 2. It shows a boy in a rumpled beige jacket and green khaki pants sitting on a subway train looking straight ahead.
The teenage straphanger shared the photo on Facebook, and police tracked him down afterward. He told investigators he could not get the boy to engage in conversation.
Police said they have alerted transit officers to pay particular attention.
As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported, police experts and family members have said they could not be certain that the boy in the picture was Avonte. But they said it was a concrete lead and will be followed.
Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, was not entirely convinced Wednesday night that the photo was of her child.
“I don’t celebrate yet, but I’m saying keep hope alive,” Fontaine said. “There’s hope there that it may be him.”
Avonte’s older brother expressed some optimism.
“We’ve seen a lot of photos turn out to be dead-ends and not him, but this one is like, probably the closest one,” older brother Anthony Fontaine said.
He continued: “It’s like maybe a 65 percent chance, you know, a possibility. It fits the description a little bit. We’re hoping it’s him.”
Family members said if it really is Avonte in the picture, it could only mean someone took care of him, bought him new clothes and put him on the train Tuesday.
Police sources said they have chased down close to 500 leads so far, and counting.
It will be four weeks this coming Friday since Avonte disappeared. His photo has been plastered all over the city, but no one has apparently seen him.
Avonte is 5-foot-3 and weighs 125 pounds. The severely autistic and nonverbal 14-year-old boy 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.
Since then, all-out search efforts by the NYPD and hundreds of volunteers have not produced concrete clues.
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.
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