Report Details How Avonte Oquendo Slipped Away Undetected | NBC New York

Report Details How Avonte Oquendo Slipped Away Undetected

The report details a series of shortfalls on the day the autistic teen ran out of the school unnoticed



    (Published Friday, March 28, 2014)

    Three lines of defense -- teachers, school guards and administrators -- all failed the day autistic teen Avonte Oquendo disappeared from school, a special commissioner said about his investigation.

    Special Commissioner Richard Condon said all three failed to do what they were supposed to when a child goes missing from school. He commented Thursday after releasing a report that detailed a series of shortfalls and circumstances that contributed to the teen running out of the school unnoticed last October.

    Avonte's remains were found along the shore of the East River in Queens in January.

    • Download the full Special Commissioner of Investigation's report

    New Video Shows Avonte Bolt Out Open Door

    [NY] New Video Shows Avonte Bolting Out School's Open Door
    New video obtained by NBC 4 New York shows 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo bolting out a door left open by an adult at his Queens school the day he disappeared. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.
    (Published Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014)

    Among the failures the day he went missing: Avonte Oquendo's mother told his teacher that the autistic teen was prone to running and needed one-on-one supervision, but that information was never shared with school administrators. 

    The survey sent home by Avonte's teacher and filled out by his mother was the only indication the school had of his tendency to run away, according to the report.

    But that was not the only contributing factor. The staff members who escorted Avonte and other students from the cafeteria were distracted by other students and didn't realize he was missing until later. And one school guard was on break, so the lone remaining guard couldn't leave her desk even when she saw Avonte running down the hall.

    Family, Friends Gather for Funeral of Avonte Oquendo

    [NY] Family, Friends Gather for Funeral of Avonte Oquendo
    Friends and family gathered at the funeral for Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old autistic boy who was last seen alive running out of his school. Sheldon Dutes reports.
    (Published Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014)

    A principal refused an initial request for a soft lockdown, and didn't have the password for the video system, delaying the viewing of security footage that showed Avonte leaving unsupervised.

    Avonte's mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said Thursday "there's a lot of anger" after reading the report. 

    "Answers? We don't have any," she told reporters. "We have no closure. There's no closure for us." 

    Feds Agree to Fund Tracking Devices for Autistic Children

    [NY] After Avonte's Death, Feds Agree to Fund Tracking Devices for Autistic Children
    The U.S. Department of Justice says it will fund voluntary tracking devices for children with autism or other conditions that put them at risk for fleeing their caregivers. Pei-Sze Cheng has the story.
    (Published Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014)

    The report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation is being sent to prosecutors.

    Avonte's teacher had sent home an informal survey to parents asking for more information about the parents. In it, Avonte's mother wrote: "Safety concerns -- please make sure you keep an eye out he likes to run. Need 1-1 supervisor will leave the building."

    Avonte's Family Submits DNA Sample to Compare to Human Remains Found

    [NY] Avonte's Family Submits DNA Sample to Compare to Human Remains Found
    The family of Avonte Oquendo is waiting to find out if the remains found in the East River are that of the missing autistic teenager.
    (Published Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014)

    • School's Response to Avonte Oquendo's Disappearance Was Delayed, Disorganized, Attorney Says

    Despite this information, Avonte wasn't given one-on-one supervision. The teacher shared his mother's concerns with aides in her classroom, but not with school administrators. Other staff who escorted Avonte the day he left school didn't know.

    The report details Avonte's last moments in the school before he slipped away:

    Family Attorney of Missing Teen: “It’s Not Looking Great”

    [NY] Family Attorney of Missing Teen: “It’s Not Looking Great”
    The lawyer for Avonte Oquendo's family cautioned that the body parts found in College Point are still being tested to see if there is a DNA link between them and the missing Queens boy. Sheldon Dutes reports
    (Published Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014)

    He was in the cafeteria for lunch, then was being escorted with about 11 other students to a technology room.

    Three adults were escorting the kids, but one broke away to deal with an unruly student. Another told investigators that he stayed with a student who was rushing ahead of the others. The third said he was focused on a student who was "fairly aggressive."

    When the last adult arrived in the technology room, she counted the students and realized Avonte was missing. One of the teachers went back into the hallway to look for him. According to surveillance video, that was 16 minutes after he was last seen with the adults.

    Avonte's Family Waiting for DNA Proof

    [NY] Avonte's Family Waiting for DNA Proof
    The Oquendo family's attorney says a footprint might help determine whether remains found along the Queens side of the East River the past few days are Avonte's. Rob Schmitt reports.
    (Published Monday, Jan. 20, 2014)

    The school had two guards -- school safety agents who are employed by the NYPD -- but did not have a supervising guard. One guard was on break when Avonte ran by the front desk post, the report said. The remaining guard called out to him, but he didn't stop and she couldn't leave the desk unmanned, the report said.

    The guard was also distracted with a parent who was picking up his sick child, the report said.

    That guard thought Avonte had run upstairs and didn't realize he left the building, according to the report. She later closed the door where Avonte had left.

    The report doesn't answer the question of who initially left the door open. A man was seen on surveillance video exiting the door without closing it behind him. He remains unidentified.

    • Family, Friends Gather for Funeral of Avonte Oquendo

    Get the latest from NBC 4 New York anywhere, anytime

    • Download the App

      Available for IOS and Android