NORTH LAS VEGAS (FOX5) - North Las Vegas police said officers safely found an autistic 16-year-old boy who was reported missing Thursday.
Officers found Vincenzo Paradiso Friday, around 2:20 a.m., according to police. The teen was found to be in good health and police thanked those who helped with search efforts.
On Friday night, he was back at home with his family and resting.
Paradiso goes to Cheyenne High School. He needs extra care, so he lives at a center with specialized care for those with autism in North Las Vegas.
His parents live in Henderson.
Police said they think Paradiso walked 14 miles, trying to get to his parent’s house. He told his mom he walked past the Stratosphere and used the lights from Black Mountain to guide him home.
Paradiso was last seen around noon on Thursday by staff at Cheyenne High School, near Craig Road and Simmons Street, according to North Las Vegas police. Stephanie Paradiso, Vincenzo's mother, said she wasn't notified of her son's disappearance until 5 p.m.
Stephanie said she contacted 911 and officers from the North Las Vegas Police Department "came out in droves" to help find her son.
"I am eternally grateful to them for their support, their patience and their kindness and their perseverance to finding Vincenzo," Stephanie added. "Also, the power of social media. This is definitely a testament that, because that's ultimately how he was found."
Stephanie wanted to thank NLV police, "Officer Molina, and the K-9 unit for their extraordinary search for Vincenzo." Red Rock Search and Rescue was also prepared to help.
Stephanie also mentioned how many friends, family and people who didn't know Paradiso personally came out to help with search efforts. Students at Cheyenne High School also came out to help.
A family friend and a former teacher of Paradiso's, Molly Weston, said Paradiso knew his mother's phone number, but was too afraid to ask someone if he could use their phone. He didn't have a phone with him.
"It does worry me that we need to educate people and let people know about these kids with autism," Weston added. "He doesn't look like he had autism, you wouldn't know he has autism, but he does. That really inhibited him today because he was scared and he did want to call his mom."
"I can't say it enough, I'm so grateful he's okay and that he's safe," Stephanie said.
North Las Vegas police did not know where to look, so they posted his picture online.
A family friend saw the post, then saw Paradiso in the airport tunnel, near McCarran Airport. Vincenzo was still alone and ran to an intersection because he was afraid. The driver reached out to Vincenzo’s dad, who picked up his son. The Paradisos called that family friend a hero.
The family said they want answers from the school: "Why did it take five hours to find out he was missing? Why weren’t police notified?"
North Las Vegas police said the school should have called sooner. The delay set back their officers and the search.
The school district sent this statement:
CCSD officials and administrators are reviewing the circumstances involving a Cheyenne High School student that staff were working to locate on Thursday shortly before school was dismissed for the day.
When staff were unable to locate the students on and around campus, all necessary contacts were made to include law enforcement.
We would like to thank all of those who were involved in the effort to locate the student.