More than 100 Hold Vigil for Autistic Teen Missing for a Week
LONG ISLAND CITY — Community members, friends and volunteers gathered with candles to pray Friday evening near the Queens school where a 14-year-old autistic boy went missing last week to support his family before spending another night scouring the city for the boy.
Avonte Oquendo, who cannot speak, ran out of the Riverview School in Long City last Friday without being stopped by school workers or security. He was missing for an hour before the school administration alerted police. His worried family and community members have been handing out thousands of fliers and searching for the boy.
"They dropped the ball, there's no other way to put it," said Avonte's father, Daniel Oquendo during the vigil. "He ran out that door. He was asked 'where are you going,' but nobody went after him when he didn't answer."
The family plans on suing the city for $25 million, their lawyer, David Perecman, said.
Perecman, filed a notice of claim with the city comptroller's office on Oct. 9, naming the city and NYPD in the suit, which is asking for $20 million for Avonte and $5 million for his mother, Vanessa Fontaine.
Meanwhile, volunteers continue their search for the missing boy.
"I'm going to be out her all night," said Calvin Hunt, who traveled to Queens form Harlem after hearing about the missing boy. "Tonight is crucial. Tonight is a vital night."
Laura Molina, 50, has been traveling to Long Island City every day from Long Island to hand out flyers.
"If it happened to my son I'd want somebody I didn't know to do this," said Molina, who has been spending her own money to make 3,000 flyers each day.
Besides the school guard letting Avonte run off, the family was also upset with the amount of time it took to alert the authorities.
Surveillance footage released by police shows Avonte at 12:38 p.m. and the school's principal was notified about two minutes later.
A 911 call was not made until 1:31 p.m., about the same time Avonte's mother was also notified.
She was able to get to the school about an hour later and called her son's name on the PA system.
"I have hope that he will be found," said Fontaine. "There's so much love for him."