The NYPD is investigating whether an F train subway rider shown in a photo is the autistic teenager whose disappearance this month set off a massive search.
Daniel Oquendo, father of the missing teen, Avonte, 14, said the rider in the photo has the "closest" resemblance to his son out of all the images presented to him since the boy walked out of the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4.
"He looks tired," the father said Wednesday night, adding, "It sort of injects some hope in the whole situation."
A teenager snapped the subway photo Tuesday evening on a Brooklyn-bound F train near West Fourth Street in lower Manhattan, a police spokesman said.
The boy in the photo has on a short tan coat that appears to be oversized, and his face, shown in profile, is partly obstructed by metal bars at the end of the seat.
Police learned of the photo through tips and are trying to verify the image.
Avonte, his parents say, has a fascination for subways and trains, so his photograph has been displayed in and around city subway stations.
"We're praying it was him and there'll be an opportunity to find him," Oquendo said. "Maybe somebody just put him on the train, just to give him up. He was dressed differently, so it's obvious somebody's been taking care of him -- if that's him."
The teenager took the photo, then asked the passenger if he was Avonte, said Tony Herbert, president of the Brooklyn East chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, which has organized searches.
"He just got a blank stare, which is consistent with anybody with autism," Herbert said.
The teenager who took the photo was not supposed to be on the train in the area, so he did not tell authorities, but posted the photo on Facebook, Herbert said. Someone saw it and notified the school, which then alerted police, he said.
Oquendo said he is not letting his hopes get too high because he's seen many leads that have fizzled.
"It's definitely a tough ride, but we're holding up," he said.
Anyone with information should call the NYPD Crime Stoppers hotline at 800-577-TIPS.