Avonte Oquendo and a matter of hope

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.

October 25, 2013 1:33:46 PM PDT
We were as surprised as anyone with NYPD Commish Kelly told us he was "not hopeful that we're going to find" Avonte Oquendo alive. The 14-year-old, who has Autism, disappeared 3 weeks ago today, when he walked out of his school in Long Island City - on surveillance cameras but right past school security.

Ray Kelly is a very smart, organized, calculated kind of executive, and so it's hard to believe he wasn't well aware of what he was saying to us last night, on camera, about the fate of Avonte. It's not that most people don't agree with Mr. Kelly; this case isn't exactly filled with optimism that Avonte will be found safe and alive. What's most troubling is that, when we called Avonte's family for reaction to Mr. Kelly's announcement, they were surprised. We were telling them for the first time.

Really? Obviously, our assignment desk editor felt terrible. Why were they told the Commissioner would say this publicly, even if we were the only ones there with our camera rolling? An uncomfortable situation for us, and we felt for the family.

The response was overwhelming to Kelly's statement - so many Eyewitness News viewers reacted to the sad assessment.

But the whole episode got me thinking about how important it is - how courteous it is ? to let the family this first. And I wondered, again, whether the whole controversy over the NYPD's "stop and frisk" program would have been mitigated a bit if the NYPD, and Mr. Kelly himself, had gone to the parents of kids in high-crime areas and told them, yes, we're going to be stopping your children, and, yes, we're going to be searching them for guns if there's cause, and, yes, it's because we want to save their lives and stop crime, and, please, won't you help us in this effort?

All that said, I also wonder if Mr. Kelly had told Avonte's parents - would have they have really listened? They are, understandably, heartbroken and sad, but also still hoping that their boy will be found. Hard to know for sure whether they're able to really believe the worst possible scenario.

So what now? Avonte's family says they are not giving up, despite the seemingly hopeless reality. Tonight at St. John's they're holding a vigil for Avonte, and well be there for our 11 p.m. newscast.

One note about man many of you haven't heard of. But he was a giant in the world of pro basketball, and a lesser-known figure in pro baseball. Bill Sharman, the former Celtics player and Coach of the Lakers, died today. His brought the Lakers their first championship and, who knew? - he was drafted by the Dodgers in 1950 and watched from the dugout when Bobby Thomson of the Giants hit the home run heard 'round the world in 1951.

Here's the link to his obit in the L.A. Times.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast (a big change in the forecast), and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.

One note: Please join me Tuesday night, Oct. 29, on the 1-year-anniversary of Superstorm Sandy on Spreecast.Com between 8-9 p.m. for a lively discussion of what we've learned and what we still have to learn. I'll also be answering your questions. Try it, it's my first time as well!


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