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Avonte Oquendo's Family Files Suit Against the City

 The mother of autistic teen Avonte Oquendo has filed a lawsuit against the city.
The mother of autistic teen Avonte Oquendo has filed a lawsuit against the city.
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LONG ISLAND CITY — The family of autistic teen Avonte Oquendo has filed a wrongful death suit against the city.

The boy's mother, Vanessa Fontaine, filed the complaint last week in Queens Supreme Court, accusing the city of negligence and failing to adequately supervise the 14-year-old, who went missing from his special needs school in Long Island City in October.

A massive, monthslong search ensued for the teen, who was autistic and unable to communicate verbally. The manhunt ended in January when his remains were discovered on a beach in College Point.

The suit names the Department of Education, the NYPD, the NYPD's School Safety Division and several people who worked in the Queens school building from which Avonte went missing. Though the complaint does not specify a monetary amount, the family's attorney had previously filed a notice of claim seeking $25 million.

"This involves a tragic incident and we will review the lawsuit," a spokesman for the city's Law Department said in a statement.

A representative for the DOE referred questions to the Law Department. The NYPD did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

An investigation released in March found that Avonte, a student at The Riverview School, had managed to break away from a group of students and school workers on Oct. 4 while returning from the cafeteria, then exited the building through a door on the first floor that had been left open.

The report, released by the Special Commissioner of Investigation, said that Avonte's mother had previously warned her autistic son's teacher that he had a tendency to run.

The agency's report was turned over to the Queens District Attorney's Office, which says the matter is still under investigation, according to a spokesman.