Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 33 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
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To be a part of the solution, NewsOne will profile a missing person weekly and provide tips about how to keep your loved ones safe and what to do if someone goes missing, while TV One‘s newest show, “Find Our Missing,” hosted by award-winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson, tells these stories in visual form.
It’s been two weeks since Avonte Oquendo, an autistic teen, ran out of his Queens school. Despite a massive and intense search by New York City Police and a large volunteer effort, there hasn’t been one credible sighting of the 14-year-old who is unable to communicate verbally.
NBC News reports that police are pulling out all the stops to find the teen:
On Thursday, police began using a van with an infrared camera that can detect body heat in the event the boy was hiding where he couldn’t be seen. Another police van is blasting Avonte’s mother’s voice over a loudspeaker telling the boy to come toward flashing police lights, and subway cars and station walls and escalators are papered with missing posters featuring multiple pictures of the boy.
A high-tech search and recovery firm from Texas that uses sonar and other equipment also said they would join the search this weekend. Given the massive search effort, the family believes the teen may have been abducted.
Watch a news report on the story below:
“I think someone has to have him. If he has been out and about someone would have seen him,” his brother Danny Oquendo Jr. told PIX11 News.
“My message to my son is that I love him and we’re going to find him. You’ll come home to your family. And for anyone who has him, please be kind and to let him go,” Avonte’s mother Vanessa Fontaine told CNN.
And New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly acknowledged that the teen may be nowhere near the city.
“We are looking now beyond the borders of New York City,” said Kelly.
The family has filed a suit against the New York City Department of Education because they say Avonte’s educational plan calls for him to have direct supervision at all times. The family’s attorney said the school guard told a family member that he saw the teen and asked what he was doing before he left the school.
Kelly disputed that account earlier this week, saying that the school safety officer saw Avonte and ordered him back upstairs. The boy then ran down to a side doorway where he was able to leave the building.
“You see nothing after this juncture that shows the conduct of the school safety agent was inappropriate or there was any misconduct involved,” Kelly told the Wall Street Journal.
But the family’s lawyer is not buying that account. Commending the NYPD for their diligent efforts to find Avonte, David Perecman said the school was still in error.
“The side exit should have been alarmed if it’s not guarded,” he told DNAinfo New York. In addition, the school waited nearly an hour to call 911 after the teen went missing, according to police records.
“In my mind and in the family’s mind, they still failed,” Perecman said.
The Department of Education would only say that it is reviewing its procedures in light of the incident.
“Protocols and procedures are being reviewed as a part of the ongoing investigation,” said a DOE spokeswoman.
Police also released a new photo of the shirt Avonte was wearing when he disappeared.
Avonte is described as being 5’3″ tall and weighing 125 pounds with short black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans, and black sneakers.
Anyone with information may contact the NYPD Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS. Tips can also be texted to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577. Information can also be sent to the Black and Missing Foundation’s confidential Tip Line.