The 13-year-old who snapped the picture said he approached the teen on the E or F train Tuesday afternoon, asking him, “Hey, are you Avonte?” According to Tony Herbert, president of the Brooklyn East chapter of the National Action Network, the teen didn’t give a response (Oquendo is unable to speak, due to his autism).
The teen later posted the picture on his Facebook page. A person who saw the image immediately informed police. Residents around the Woodhaven/Ozone Park neighborhoods, along with officers from the 102nd Precinct, searched the vicinity. A helicopter above Atlantic Avenue also assisted them.
“We saw cops coming up by twos, going in to every house on 92nd St. looking for security cameras,” an anonymous resident told the New York Daily News.
Upon seeing the image, Daniel Oquendo, Avonte’s father, said he was “still hopeful” his son is alive. “Yes, it’s a close likeness,” he added. “We need to get a better look to really tell. If we could find the individual who took the picture, that would help big time.”
“We just need to stay focused and analyze every sighting,”
Oquendo originally disappeared October 4th, reportedly running away from his Long Island City School. Since then, police, concerned residents, and community activists have performed an exhaustive search for the youth. Their efforts have included numerous flyers, subway announcements, and even police cars playing a recording of Oquendo’s mother, asking him to approach the vehicles.
In a recent press conference, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he was “not hopeful” the teen was alive.
Award money for any information leading to Oquendo’s safe return has risen above $80,000.