Massive hunt for missing NYC autistic boy continues

Avonte Oquendo, 14, autistic boy from Queens, NY has been missing since October 4, 2013.
CBS New York

(CBS News) NEW YORK - For the last two weeks, an extraordinary search has been taking place in New York City. It involves thermal sensors, loud speakers, and hundreds of officers. The goal: find a missing autistic boy.

Since early October, Daniel Oquendo has been checking for leads at this mobile command center in queens new york, hoping to find his missing son, Avonte.

"It's like a recurring nightmare," Oquendo said.

The 14-year-old is autistic and non-verbal. He was last seen on surveillance video at his school running through the halls alone and leaving the building.

Oquendo has for the time being deflected questions about blame.

"There will be a time for that," he said. "For now I am just trying to concentrate on getting him back."

More than 100 New York City police officers and 600 volunteers have been searching for Avonte. Marisa Dejesus has been handing out fliers everyday since he went missing.

"We have fliers here in all sorts of languages -- Korean, Creole, Russian, Italian, Bengali, Chinese, Spanish, English -- just so the word get out there," Dejesus said.

Searchers have been paying close attention to the subway, because his family says the boy loves the train system.

"With him not being able to talk, he's not able to tell someone: 'Hey, I'm lost,' or 'I need to go here' or 'My parents are looking for me,'" Oquendo said.

Because of that, a special van is being used with thermal imaging sensors and a public address system. It blasts Avonte's mother's voice.

"The child being autistic responds better to the sound of his mother's voice then to a stranger," said Tommy Brennan, a volunteer for Citywide Disaster Services.

With over 200 tips and at least two possible sightings, police have expanded the search for Avonte to neighboring Long Island and New Jersey. The reward for his return is close to $90,000.

Those with information are asked to contact the NYPD at 800-577-TIPS.