LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens (PIX11) – Daniel Oquendo is where he has been for almost three weeks — in a vinyl tent along the East River in Long Island City, Queens.
This area is the focus of an ongoing and intensive NYPD search for Daniel’s son, Avonte.
PIX11’s Mike Sheehan and photographer Shashi Sharma caught this exclusive footage of department boats and helicopters mobilizing near a series of abandoned fields and lots along the East River.
They were hunting down yet another lead that ultimately did not pan out.
That is what Daniel and his family are battling — one eventful day after another — as he waits for word on his 14-year-old severely autistic, non-verbal son who slipped out of his special needs school and vanished.
This emotionally draining journey became more difficult when Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced he may be forced to eventually scale back the resources dedicated to the search for Avonte.
“I was disappointed, but at the same time, I’ve always been relying…I mean they’re doing their thing, but we’re relying on our people. They volunteers, all the different search teams coming out. So once they start scaling down, we’re just gonna scale up,” said Daniel.
That’s no exaggeration.
Brooklyn based community activist Tony Herbert, who recently teamed up with Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, spent Tuesday afternoon maintaining a presence at the Oquendo’ s informal tent base camp.
“We’re not discouraged. We’re encouraged. Because now we know our membership will step up, when we know that these things are happening. We’re engaged. Now we’re fully engaged. We’re going to be here for this family,” said Herbert.
Psychologist Dr. J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner says a scaled down search may just provide the Oquendos with a much needed coping mechanism — activity.
“Keeping structured. Keeping busy. Going after every lead. If you’re being weighed down and burdened, get out there”, said Dr. Von Ornsteiner.
Daniel Oquendo says he doesn’t need a professional opinion to know what he must do.
“Along with the people of the city, all we’re doing is extending a hand out to see if we can get more people. Discouragement is not an option. Right now. We’re going to be OK. We’re going to be OK,” said Daniel.