(NEW YORK) — A photo taken in a New York City subway of a boy who resembled a missing autistic teen raised hopes that Avonte Oquendo — who wandered from his school last month — could be found.
But police said on Thursday that boy in the photo was not Oquendo. Another New York teen came forward to a police precinct with his mother and identified himself as the boy in the photo, New York police told ABC News on Thursday.
Oquendo’s parents — and much of the city — were hopeful that the photo may have been a sign that Avonte was still in the city and just needed to be found.
The photo so closely resembled Avonte that even his parents weren’t sure whether it was him or not.
“At first, we were reluctant,” Daniel Oquendo, Avonte’s father, told WABC. “But then, looking at it a little more, that’s the best picture we’ve gotten so far of someone that resembles Avonte. So we spoke to the detectives. They all got out on it early this morning, and we also ran out and started scouring the streets ourselves.”
Oquendo, 14, is severely autistic and non-verbal. He wandered away from his school in Long Island City, Queens, on Oct. 4 and has not been seen since, but his disappearance sparked a massive citywide search for the boy.
Posters bearing his photograph and a description of what he was last wearing — black jeans, a gray shirt, black sneakers — were plastered all over the New York City subway system, and announcements were made frequently alerting riders to be on the lookout for Oquendo.
Oquendo’s family said that he had previously wandered off from home and been found near subway stations.
The NYPD has used helicopters and divers to search the waters off Queens, as well as searching rail yards.
On Tuesday, a teenager riding the F train snapped the photo of a boy he thought looked like Oquendo. He also asked the boy whether he was Avonte, but received no reply.
The NYPD said that although the photo that emerged this week was not of Oquendo, the investigation remains open and the search for Oquendo remains active.
Hundreds of volunteers signed up with the family to help look for Oquendo in the days after his disappearance.
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