Montgomery County Police don’t know exactly how a 16-year-old boy with autism walked from Rockville to Damascus, but they know he was found walking by himself along Ridge Road at about 2:00 pm on Monday.
Police announced that a Montgomery County Public Schools paraeducator, Alfredo Lopez, has been arrested and charged with two counts of neglect of a minor after two teenage students with Autism and an Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) separately walked away from the Rockville public school they attend.
Police arrested Alfredo Lopez, age 59, of the 7800 block of Mineral Springs Drive in Gaithersburg on Wednesday, Sept. 26 after determining that Lopez was responsible for the two students when they went missing from the school. Both students were eventually found safe and returned to their homes.
At 12:50 pm on Monday, Sept. 24, 1st District MCPD officers and Rockville City Police responded to the Rock Terrace High School at 390 Martins Lane in Rockville for the report of a missing 16-year-old male student with Autism/IDD who had walked away from the school.
Police determined that Lopez worked at the school and had observed the student leave the school on foot at approximately 9:52 am that morning and, at that time, made no attempt to notify school staff members that the student had walked away.
Lopez did not notify school officials of the missing student until approximately 12:40 pm, three hours after the student walked away from the school. Lopez only notified school personnel after a relative of that student had called the school to state that he/she would be picking the student up that day. The student was then reported as missing to police.
Later that afternoon, at approximately 1:51 pm, a Montgomery County Public Schools bus driver observed the missing student walking northbound on Ridge Road at Sweepstakes Drive in Damascus, which is more than 15 miles from the school in Rockville. The student was returned to his home. According to Officer Rick Goodale, police do not know if the student walked the entire way or took a bus, Metro, or got a ride for some portion of the trip to the Damascus area. He also confirmed that the unidentified student lives in the Damascus area.
At approximately 3:00 pm, 1st District officers and Rockville City Police officers again responded to the Rock Terrace High School for the report of a missing non-verbal 16-year-old male student with Autism/IDD. During that investigation, officers determined that Lopez was also responsible for supervising this student.
Lopez had lost sight of the student and did not immediately follow established protocol to report the student as missing to administrative staff. A review of school surveillance video showed the student exit the school through the front door at approximately 2:53 pm.
Police K-9 officers and officers from the 1st, 4th, and 6th Districts, immediately began searching for the missing student. At approximately 6:11 pm, police were notified by family members that the student was located at home in the Glenmont area. Officers determined that the student had walked approximately six miles in inclement weather from the school to his home.
Photos by courtesy MCPD. Map: Google Maps.