Avonte Oquendo Tried to Run Away Day Before He Went Missing, Attorney Says
LONG ISLAND CITY — The day before he disappeared from his special needs school in October, autistic teen Avonte Oquendo had tried a similar attempt to run away from his class, according to an attorney for the boy's family.
The previous attempt to get away was not included in the Special Commissioner for Investigation's (SCI) comprehensive report on the incident, which it released last month.
Lawyer David Perecman says documents obtained from the NYPD through a Freedom of Information Law request include a statement from a teacher on lunch duty at The Riverview School who said the 14-year-old tried to run away under the same circumstances the day before.
The boy was with a group that was walking from the fifth to second floors when Avonte bolted — the same way he was able to flee the school the following day, according to the lawyer.
"This is exactly what he did, and how he got away," Perecman said. "So you've got to wonder why they weren't being more diligent."
The new documents did not reveal who stopped Avonte during the initial incident, and whether the teacher — the same one who was on duty the day Avonte disappeared — reported it to administrators, Perecman said.
DNAinfo is withholding the teacher's name because he has not been charged with any wrongdoing. The SCI report was referred to the Queens DA's office for further investigation, according to a spokeswoman.
The teacher had declined to be interviewed by SCI investigators but provided a written statement, according to the report. A rep for the United Federation of Teachers declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
In a response to questions about the new information, a Department of Education spokesman said the agency "is committed to working diligently to prevent another tragedy like this from ever occurring again.
"The situation was truly tragic. Our school communities mourned. And today, we learned more about what happened on that fateful day," DOE spokesman David Pena said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with Avonte’s family."
Avonte, who could not communicate verbally, was last seen alive on Oct. 4, 2013, when he was captured on surveillance video running out of the school building through a side door that had been left ajar.
His remains were discovered in January on a beach in College Point, bringing a tragic end to an extensive months-long search by police and volunteers, who had scoured the city and papered subway stations with missing persons posters.
The SCI report revealed that Avonte's mother had told his teacher at The Riverview School that the boy had a tendency to run. But the teacher did not pass the information on to the administration, the report said.
The report also found that no mention was made of the tendency to his previous school.
A spokeswoman for the SCI declined to comment on the new information.
Avonte's family is planning to file a lawsuit against the city.
The DOE said it has taken steps to review and revise its safety protocols, and is providing extra training for school safety agents, principals and special education paraprofessionals.
The department is also requiring all co-located school buildings that include a District 75, or special needs school, to have a District 75 staff member on its Building Response Team, which is in charge of responding during an emergency.