NYPD Expands Search for Missing Autistic Teen

Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his school in Long Island City

Police have expanded the search for a 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.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday that 50 police officers each day were working on the search for Avonte Oquendo, 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.

The family set up a command post under a tent near his school where he went missing.

"We get leads throughout the day, and whenever we get them, we try to take them seriously," said Danny Oquendo. "We call police detectives, then volunteers who go to that area." 

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."

On Saturday, Phillip Banks, the NYPD's chief of detectives, said police were optimistic they would find the boy.

"We're still pretty optimistic and hopeful that we will find Avonte and deliver him back home to his family," Banks said, noting that more than 80 tips about the boy have come in.

--Daniel Macht contributed to this story

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