By Bill Parry
When 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo walked out of PS 277 in Long Island City at 12:38 p.m. Oct. 4, he was heading in the direction of the East River and the non-verbal autistic youth has not been seen since.
Speaking publicly for the first time nearly a month later, 108th Precinct Capt. Brian Hennessy convened his monthly community council meeting Tuesday night and detailed some of the aspects of the search that has taken over his officers’ lives.
“I’ve been down there 16 hours a day since it happened,” the captain said. “His family is still out there, divers are still in the water and the helicopters are still in the sky.”
Everything that could be searched has been searched repeatedly, from dumpsters to clothing drops, subway and train yards, abandoned buildings and cars.
“Thousands and thousands of hours of videotape from security cameras from every building have been examined,” said Hennessy, “and we keep looking at more video all the time. There’s no sign of him.”
The 108th Precinct covers a huge tract of western Queens, including Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside. While supplemental resources from outside the 108th have helped in the search, the burden falls mainly on his officers.
“It doesn’t affect coverage of our patrol throughout the precinct area. We use every officer who has other duties like serving warrants, school safety officers and such,” explained the captain, adding that “we maintain our usual 28 cops on patrol on each shift.”
The search has been augmented by concerned citizens from throughout the community.
Hennessy, born and raised in Queens, said, “You get a real appreciation for the hundreds of young people from LaGuardia Community College, civic groups and volunteers from all the neighborhoods and the Guardian Angels, too.”
He said tips continue to pour in and have led to the discovery of three other missing children, two in other precincts and one in New Jersey.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal or by phone at 718-260-4538.