A 14-year-old boy abducted from a Toronto street as payback for his stepbrother’s alleged criminal activity has been safely reunited with his family, the city’s police chief said Friday as he appealed for the public’s help in the case.
Mark Saunders said no arrests have yet been made in the boy’s disappearance, which lasted for more than 36 hours and triggered an Amber Alert.
He provided few details of how the teen was ultimately located, but said officers found him in the city of Brampton, Ont., well northwest of his home.
Saunders said the boy, who looked “dishevelled” when he was found, was taken to hospital for a checkup before being reunited with his family. He said the boy was safe despite the fact that his alleged abductors are still at large.
“He probably will be the most watched young man in the city of Toronto right now,” the chief said at a news conference. “So you’d have to be more than a fool to try to apprehend him or cause any harm to his family.”
Saunders offered no particulars on suspects in the case, including descriptions or the number of people police are seeking. But he reiterated the allegation that the abduction was carried out as retribution for a massive “cocaine heist” allegedly executed by the teen’s stepbrother.
Investigators have said the man allegedly stole nearly 100 kilograms of cocaine in the summer of 2019, valuing the heist at close to $4 million.
Saunders said the teen at the centre of the abduction was an innocent party with no connection to any criminal activity.
The boy went missing at around 8:30 Wednesday morning, police said, noting witnesses reported hearing him cry for help as he was bundled into a Jeep Wrangler.
Saunders said the burned-out vehicle was found later that night near the town of Caledon, Ont., northwest of the city.
Police launched an investigation based on reports of the teen’s plea for help, but the incident was not connected to an alleged abduction until his parents reported him missing shortly after 5:30 p.m.
The boy’s high school failed to notify his family of his day-long absence sooner because his teachers missed an attendance reporting deadline, the Toronto District School Board said.
Spokesman Ryan Bird said four staff members at the boy’s northwest Toronto high school have been put on “home assignment” because their attendance data wasn’t submitted before 11 a.m. as required.
“We’re looking to confirm details right now, but what is clear is that attendance was not entered as it should have been,” Bird said.
The Amber Alert was issued at around midnight on Thursday, triggering a widespread search involving multiple police forces.
Police had previously said that the alleged abductors had been in communication with the force, but Saunders said Friday that was not the case.
He also said the stepbrother, who he said has left the Toronto-area and may even have fled the province, has provided “limited co-operation.”
Saunders said public help will be needed to identify suspects and urged anyone to come forward with any information they may have.
“This investigation’s not done yet,” he said. “I want these people that are involved. And I think there’s a great opportunity to reach the goal line with this particular investigation.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 6, 2020.