Frantic search for boy with autism ends with joyful reunion

It took intensely dedicated cops and a good Samaritan, to help reunite a mother from the Bronx with her young son with autism.

Video Transcript

- Tonight, a story about an emotional reunion between a mother from the Bronx and her young son who has autism. Lost in Manhattan he was, and how he was found, all the people involved, including from intensely dedicated cops and a good Samaritan of a building doorman.

Well, that's the story here, from getting lost in Central Park near 90th and 5th Avenue, to getting found on the West side of Manhattan, 61st street in Columbus. Here's Josh Eineger.

JOSH EINEGER: Springtime in Central Park can be a magical place. But for a missing child with autism, it's downright terrifying.

RUTH EUSTAQUIO: In my mind, I was-- I froze. Because I just thought-- Central Park do you see how big Central Park is.

JOSH EINEGER: Ruth Eustaquio's 10-year-old special needs son Johann is safe at home tonight with some new goodies from his new friends, after last night's all out search. Family had spent a perfect spring evening in the park. But as they packed up to leave, he took off.

GARY LI: They were pretty frantic. They were literally running around.

JOSH EINEGER: It was already dark by the time officer Gary Li and his partner got the missing child call. It's a common one in the Central Park precinct, but Johann's autism made this a true emergency.

BILL GALLAGHER: Central Park is a gigantic piece of real estate, 843 acres, seven different bodies of water, and 58 miles of pedestrian path. And all of this occurs basically, in the dark of night.

JOSH EINEGER: Commanding Officer Bill Gallagher called in a helicopter and a K-9 team. Teams of cops searched bodies of water in the dark with an increasing sense of dread.

BILL GALLAGHER: I've got kids. I've got a relative with autism. I mean, we all really felt this and really kind of made it personal.

JOSH EINEGER: But it turned out Johann wasn't even in the park, hadn't been attracted to the water but to those shimmering lights so far away.

Two miles away and in a whole different precinct, he wound up in the lobby of this apartment building on the Upper West Side.

BENJAMIN PEREZ: So he was standing right there. Where's your parents? He didn't respond. I was like, are you lost? And I asked him to come inside, have a seat, while I call the police and get him back to his family.

JOSH EINEGER: And with an NYPD body camera recording, Ruth rushed to the lobby and hugged her son, a magical ending to a terrifying night.

RUTH EUSTAQUIO: And they found my kid. So thank you, guys.