LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens (PIX11) — Dozens of police officers and volunteers from nearby communities converged on the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City Wednesday, where they began another day searching for Avonte Oquendo, 14.
The child with nonverbal autism was last seen on surveillance video last Friday afternoon leaving the school. He ran away about a month ago, but was found within 20 minutes, according to police.
“I’m a mother, and it breaks my heart just to know he can’t talk, he can’t communicate,” said Aracelis Silverio, who joined the group in handing out flyers.
Police on Tuesday thought they had found Avonte in East Harlem, after locating a boy fitting Avonte’s description. But it turned out not to be him.
Police have stepped up their search, conducting much of it underground, including subway tunnels. Avonte is known to like trains. He also has a taste for sweets, and if hungry, may go into a store and take a piece of candy.
“My feeling is, how he got out of the school boggles the mind, because he should have been supervised,” said Joan Amber who lives in the family’s Rego Park building.
The Department of Education, which is working with the NYPD, is not commenting on how Avonte managed to wander off.
The law firm Mayerson & Associates is offering a $5,000 reward for Avonte’s safe return. Attorney Gary Mayerson is on the board of the organization Autism Speaks.
The Manhattan based firm mostly represents individuals with autism, primarily in educational rights matters.
“We cannot begin to imagine what Avonte’s family is going through. Time is of the essence,” the firm says in a statement.
For more information, contact Mayerson at 212-265-7200