Update, 11:30 a.m.: NYPD officers have determined that the young man photographed on the train is not Avonte Oquendo.
Sergeant Jessica McRorie of the NYPD tells us the teen in the photograph “came into an NYPD precinct with his mother and was interviewed. We’ve determined that the person in the picture was not Avonte.”
She was unable to comment on whether or not the NYPD would continue scaling down its search for the missing teenager, as officials suggested earlier this week. She added only, “The search for Avonte continues.”
A photograph snapped on the F train has given new hope to the family of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, the autistic teenager who walked away from his Long Island City School on October 4.
The photo was taken on October 29 by a 13-year-old who was on the train near West 4th Street station when he spotted another boy, about his age, whom he thought he recognized.
He reportedly approached the subway rider and asked, “Hey, are you Avonte?” The boy did not respond. Oquendo is unable to speak, but his family says he is fascinated by trains and the subway system.
The teen posted the photo to Facebook, where it was spotted by an adult who alerted authorities.
“At first we were reluctant,” father Daniel Oquendo told WABC early Thursday morning, “but looking at it, that’s the best picture we’ve seen so far.”
The photograph has renewed hopes that Oquendo may be found alive, just as the NYPD was beginning to wind down its search for the missing teen. Police and volunteers canvassed Chinatown early Thursday morning, distributing fliers with photos and information about Oquendo.
Since he was first reported missing, the NYPD has devoted 100 officers to the search for Oquendo. On Friday, Police Comissioner Ray Kelly told WABC, “Unfortunately, we are not hopeful that we’re going to find this young man alive, but we are continuing our search.”
An internal memo, obtained by Capital New York, suggests that crucial safety measures were not in place the day the autistic teen walked away from Public School 277.
The memo, written by the teachers union, said administrators at the school did not have access to security cameras, and doors were missing alarmed panic bars on October 4, the day Oquendo went missing.
Anyone with information about Oquendo is asked to call NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline 1-800-577-TIPS or text tips for 274637 (CRIMES) and enter TIP577.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 31, 2013