NYPD "Optimistic" About Finding Autistic Teen, Missing 8 Days

An official said more than 80 tips about Avonte Oquendo have come in

By Shimon Prokupecz and Sheldon Dutes
|  Sunday, Oct 13, 2013  |  Updated 2:34 PM CDT
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NYPD Expands Search for Autistic Teen, Missing for 1 Week

Police have expanded the search for Avonte Oquendo, the 14-year-old mute autistic boy last seen skipping away from his Queens school a week ago, searching train tunnels and waterways and interviewing sex offenders in the area. Jonathan Vigliotti reports.

Volunteers Swarm NYC Neighborhoods in Search for Missing Autistic Boy

Six days after 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo was last seen running away from his Queens school, family, friends and volunteers are ramping up their search for the missing mute autistic boy, relying on the community to mobilize and keep awareness high. Checkey Beckford reports.
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More than a week after an autistic teen who can't speak vanished from his Queens school, an NYPD official said police are "optimistic" about finding him.

"We're still pretty optimistic and hopeful that we will find Avonte and deliver him back home to his family," Phillip Banks, the NYPD's chief of detectives, said at a press conference Saturday.

Avonte Oquendo was last seen skipping away from his school on Oct. 4.

Banks said more than 80 tips about the boy have come in but none of the leads have led to sightings of the boy.

"We've done an extensive search; that search entails aviation units using the best technology we possess," said Banks, adding that the NYPD's harbor and SCUBA units were also searching for Avonte.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday that 50 police officers each day were working on the search for Avonte, which now extends to Long Island and New Jersey.

Police have concentrated much of the search in subway and transit facilities because of the boy's fascination with trains. Officials said Friday that every single subway line had been searched. Announcements could be heard in subway stations notifying riders to be on the lookout for the missing child who is unable to speak.

Avonte's father, Daniel Oquendo, spent the entire night Thursday searching for his son. He said in an interview about 4 a.m. Friday that he hadn't slept more than about 12 hours since his son went missing.

"We can't even sleep," he said. "It's hard to sleep knowing your child is out there and he could be cold and hungry and he can't even communicate."

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