Skip to main content

Reward offered for safe return of missing autistic teen in New York

By Elizabeth Landers and Jia Guo, CNN
updated 3:36 PM EDT, Wed October 9, 2013
Avonte Oquendo, 14, has been missing since Friday, October 4 after he ran out of his Long Island City school.
Avonte Oquendo, 14, has been missing since Friday, October 4 after he ran out of his Long Island City school.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A law firm puts up a $5,000 reward for Oquendo's return
  • The missing 14-year-old boy cannot communicate verbally
  • Video shows him running out of his school Friday

New York (CNN) -- A law firm in New York is offering a $5,000 reward for the safe return of an autistic teen who's been missing since he ran out of his school last week.

Surveillance video shows 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo of Queens running out the door of Center Boulevard School in Long Island City at 12:38 p.m. Friday. Police say he is unable to communicate verbally.

Mayerson & Associates, a New York-based law firm that represents individuals with autism, is offering the reward for information leading to the safe return of the boy.

"We cannot begin to imagine what Avonte's family is going through," the firm said in a statement. "Time is of the essence."

Teen with autism goes missing

Gary Mayerson, the founder of the firm, said the status of the search and investigation may lead to the reward money being increased.

New York Police Department Sgt. Lee Jones said Wednesday there were no new developments in the case.

Earlier this week, Oquendo's mother said the situation is "heartbreaking."

"I just need to find my son because he needs his family, he cannot fend for himself out there," Vanessa Fontaine told CNN affiliate WABC.

"This is just the hardest thing to have your child disappear, and you cannot bring him home with you," she added.

According to the surveillance video provided by the NYPD, no supervisor or monitor stopped the 14-year-old when he ran out.

"He is supposed to have one-to-one supervision at all times," Fontaine said through tears. "He has the mental capacity of a 7- or 8-year-old."

The New York City Department of Education issued a statement saying it was working closely with the police on the investigation.

The school is not commenting.

Police say Oquendo was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5 feet, three inches tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Missing posters are being handed out and the surrounding areas are under investigation, WABC reported.

"He doesn't know that, you know, 'I can get hurt in the street, someone can grab me and take me.' He doesn't know that," Fontaine said Monday. "He doesn't know fear."

Anyone with information about Oquendo should contact the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips at Crime Stoppers website, nypdcrimestoppers.com or text to 274637(CRIMES), then enter TIP577.

CNN's Haley Draznin and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT