A Long Island teenager is back home safe after he was kidnapped and driven more than 500 miles away to Virginia by a stranger he met while playing a video game online, police said.
The 15-year-old with autism went missing on Tuesday after first meeting his alleged kidnapper while playing Minecraft, according to Suffolk County Police. Their relationship grew over several months in a private chat room, as they exchanged messages and arranged to meet, said Acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron.
The teen rode his bike to meet up in person with the alleged kidnapper at a Sayville shopping center. That bicycle was later found hidden in some nearby woods.
The boy's father organized a group to help search for child, and one of the people who joined said she initially feared the worst. But using surveillance video and other tools, police determined the boy got into a car with a 20-year-old Tennessee man. The car they were in was traced all the way to a rest area in Virginia, where the two were found asleep about 12 hours after the teen went missing.
"I believe by locating him, they very well likely prevented a tragedy," said Cameron said.
The boy's family declined comment, but others in the town said the incident has led them to be more protective over their children's online habits.
The identity of the alleged kidnapper has not been released. Suffolk County police said that he is expected to be returned to the area on Friday to face a judge. A motive for the abduction was not immediately clear.