A lawyer for the family of a missing 14-year-old autistic boy has released documents revealing more about what happened when the boy vanished from his Queens school.
Oquendo, who didn’t speak, had a reputation for running away and there was a plan in place to prevent that from happening.
He still managed to slip away from his class sometime after lunch on Oct. 4.
We already know that the school messed up by losing him in the first place, and there have been reports that a security guard failed to stop the boy as he was trying to leave the school. (The timeline shows Oquendo ran past a security desk before going down a hallway and exiting through a door that was left ajar.) The lawyer for the boy’s family has also said the school waited 45 minutes to call the police.
David Perecman, the lawyer for the missing boy’s family, sent us a timeline prepared by the school’s principal outlining a disorganized and delayed response to Oquendo’s flight from his class.
The timeline shows a classroom aide first noticed Oquendo’s disappearance at 12:40 p.m.
The report also shows the school waited 45 minutes to call the boy’s mother. It’s not entirely clear from the report when the school called the police, but the first mention of 911 comes at 1:30. At 1:30 p.m., a school safety agent also said Oquendo hadn’t left the building even though he had been away from the school for nearly an hour.
After the boy vanished, an assistant principal asked a principal named Edgar Rodriguez if he could look at camera footage to find out where Oquendo might have gone. (Rodriguez is the principal of a smaller school called the Academy for Careers in Television and Film, which is located in the same building as Oquendo’s school.)
Rodriguez didn’t have access to the password to view the footage, though. It wasn’t until 2:30 p.m. that Susan McNulty, the principal of Oquendo’s school, got her hands on a password to look at the footage. Here’s the full timeline (emphasis ours):
12:30 Mitchell Glover [a teacher] and group leave cafeteria — heading down four (4) flights of stairs — to computer lab on 2nd Floor (Glover statement)
12:36 Mr. Glover and group leave cafeteria
Mr. Glover in the front of the line;
Mr. Dooley (para) in the middle of the line;
Syde Smalls (sub para) at the end of the line;
Avonte is in the middle of the line’
Students escorted down the hallway by staff and entered stairwell “A” on the 5th floor;
12:37 Students entered the 2nd floor and were escorted by staff to the technology room;
Avonte is not seen on camera entering the 2nd floor
12:37 Avonte entered the first floor through stairwell “A”;
Avonte ran in front of the main lobby security desk;
Avonte first ran towards the Borden Avenue exit and then turned around and ran back past the security desk and a parent that was standing in the hallway;
Avonte continued down the hallway and exited the building through the Center Boulevard exit door that was ajar;
12:40 Syde Smalls alerts Mitchell Glover — where’s Avonte?
Started a sweep of the school; (Glover Statement)
12:41 School safety agent Perez walked down the hallway and closed the Center Boulevard door that was ajar;
12:52 Mr. Glover walks out of classroom and looks around;
Mr. Glover approaches Jill Dezeo (unit coordinator) and spoke to her;
Jill Dizeo checks the hallway and enters the stairwell;
12:56 Jill Dizeo (unit coordinator) reported to Assistant Principal Angela Pomo that Avonte was missing;
12:57 Angela Pomo (Assistant Principal) went to school safety and reported a missing student and asked School Safety Agent Phillip at the Main Desk if the supervisor was in the building and was told “no”.
Angela Pomo then asked School Safety Agent Perez, and other agents, if they could man the first floor doors and do a sweep of the outside perimeter of the building in case he left the building;
Agent Perez informed Assistant Principal Pomo that she saw Avonte run down the “busing” hallway but that he did not go out the back door;
Agent Perez said to Angela Pomo that she saw Avonte go through the front white doors and upstairs;
She reported that she saw him run “up” the stairs;
Time not noted
After speaking with Safety Agent Perez, Assistant Principal Pomo called Edgar Rodriguez — Principal of ACTVF High School — and informed him that a student was missing;
Assistant Principal Pomo asks Edgar Rodriguez to make an announcement and have his staff look for Avonte;
Assistant Principal Pomo asks Edgar Rodriguez for a “soft lock down”;
Edgar Rodriguez refuses to make the announcement — he doesn’t want to upset his students;
Edgar Rodriguez says that he will look for the student upstairs;
Assistant Principal Pomo asks Edgar Rodriguez if he could review the cameras;
Edgar Rodriguez says that he does not have password access;
Assistant Principal Pomo asked Claire Tilley (school secretary) to call Principal Susan McNulty to inform her of the incident;
Principal Susan McNulty was at her offsite at P78Q, called the main site and was informed of the incident;
1:20 Principal McNulty was advised of the incident;
1:30 Principal Susan McNulty arrived at the Main Site;
Principal McNulty asks School Safety Agent Phillip outside the building if 911 had been contacted and Phillip said “yes”;
Principal McNulty asked School Safety Agent Perez what she saw — and Perez said that she saw Avonte got through the white doors up the stairs;
School Safety Agent Perez said that Avonte did not leave the building. She saw him run up the stairs;
1:35 Principal Susan McNulty called Vanessa Fontaine [Oquendo’s mother] to report the incident;
1:40 Principal Susan McNulty called Vicki Hoffman to report the incident;
2:00 NYPD was contacted;
2:00 Principal Susan McNulty went to Officer Lee — the responding 911 officer — to get an update on where they were in the search for Avonte;
At approximately 2 pm Officer Lee put the building on lockdown to search for Avonte;
The lock down lasted 30 minutes;
During the lockdown, Principal Susan McNulty met with Detectives Auguello and Castill and waited for Ms. Fontaine, Avonte’s mother, to arrive;
2:05 Principal McNulty speaks to D75 Safety Director Mary Mason Simpson to get access to view the cameras for the school
2:30 School lockdown ends;
2:30 Principal McNulty received the password for the cameras at approximately 2:30 pm;
Principal McNulty was able to view the cameras with Detectives Auguello and Castill from the 108th precinct;
At this time it was discovered that Avonte had left the building at 12:38 pm;
END of Occurrence notes.
Following his disappearance, the city covered the subways with posters of the boy and made regular announcements on trains.
The search for the boy continues. I heard an announcement about Oquendo as recently as last week.
Perecman, the lawyer for the family, previously told me he has never heard of another case of a New York City school losing a special-needs student.
“People lose their keys. People lose their wallet. Losing a child?” he said.
New York’s schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott has previously said Oquendo’s disappearance has prompted a review of emergency-response protocol, The New York Times reported.
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