A 13-year-old boy disappeared from outside his home in Lindenwood around dawn Friday morning leading to an intensive search and fears that he may have been kidnapped.
But those fears were alleviated when the teen was found safe a few miles away at the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station about eight hours later.
Griffin Dreger, 13, who is a student at St. Thomas the Apostle school in Woodhaven, was throwing out garbage in a Dumpster when he went missing around 6:30 a.m. at 153rd Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard, near Conduit Boulevard.
Witnesses originally said the boy may have been kidnapped. Several neighbors claimed to have heard Dreger scream and police are looking for a gold-colored van that he was allegedly taken away from the scene in.
Other neighbors claimed a man in a white van was seen stalking children in the neighborhood in the days before Dreger’s disappearance.
But police never confirmed a kidnapping and never issued an AMBER alert for Dreger, which law enforcement only does when they are certain a child had been kidnaped and was in danger.
A police source said they had never officially confirmed a kidnapping because they could not confirm the stories that there were witnesses to the abduction.
“They were telling us something different than they were telling [the media],” the source said.
At least one neighbor who claimed to have seen Dreger get kidnapped recanted her story Friday afternoon, saying she had only heard the rumor and believed it to be true.
Several hours after Dreger disappeared, neighbors and family members mulled around, along with NYPD cops and investigators, on Cross Bay Boulevard and 153rd Avenue, the main route into the Lindenwood section of Howard Beach. At least three police cars and a van from Patrol Borough Queens South were at the scene. Several neighbors declined to talk or be identified. Officers surrounded an obviously distraught relative of Dreger’s near the entrance to the family’s home in the community’s trademark garden apartments.
Dreger’s photo was posted and shared on Facebook and Twitter as Howard Beach residents and civic leaders from as far away as Glendale sought to help the search.
Police helicopters circled over South Queens with one hovering over Liberty Avenue and 104th Street in Ozone Park for several minutes. Police at the scene would not comment on the investigation, but the same helicopter was seen circling over the area again a short time later.
How the teenager got to Jamaica is unknown and the police source said the reason Dreger ran away is “a private family matter.”
Nevertheless, news of the missing boy sent chills down the spines of neighborhood parents.
“I don’t want to let them out of my sight,” said one of Dreger’s neighbors of her two children whom she had just dropped off at PS 232 Friday when news of his disappearance broke. Typically, she said, she lets them walk on their own with some friends.