Missing Teen is Welcomed Home After 3 Months on The Run
After three months on the run, 15-year-old José Veloso was returned to his Reston, Va., home, his grandmother Silvia, and the rest of his family on Aug. 9.
The police dropped him off. They’d picked him up for driving a stolen moped, taken him to the station to file a report, and then driven him to houses he claimed were his, but where he knew no one would be home. Eventually he gave in and told them his actual address.
When his grandmother sat next to him crying that night, he told her he’d missed her. He said he’d been unable to sleep some nights, thinking about her and his nine-year-old half-brother Chris.
A couple of days later, the family sent him on a camping trip with his uncle, Mario, with whom they decided he would go live in Frederick, Md.
Despite having missed each other, José and Silvia, who is blind, still could not live together. She was frustrated that he’d smoked marijuana while away, and he didn’t like that she wouldn’t let him go out with his friends, whom she did not trust.
On his last night in the house they argued. José became frustrated and wiped tears on his t-shirt. Silvia told him she had to be strict after he was suspended from school.
“There is no school for parenting,” she commented remorsefully.
While he was gone, José slept at the homes of three friends and their families. He also spent two nights in one of his host’s backyards after missing their curfew, and one night in a vacant apartment he happened upon.
Most of his summer friends were Latino or black, like the majority of the students at South Lakes High School.
He spent the first few years of his life in Venezuela and identifies himself as a Latino, which he says made him a target for teachers. They wanted to get students of color in trouble, and the principal sought their expulsion, he contends.
Although his grandmother thought many of José’s friends were gangbangers, he says only one was affiliated with a gang.
José related how he spent the summer just hanging out with his friends. He also had at least a couple of “adventures,” he admits:
He talks about how he “found” several $100 bills in the glove compartment of an unlocked car and he and three friends spent two days in a hotel in Delaware, where they visited Kings Dominion theme park and went on a spending spree at a shopping mall. They spent most of their “found’money on clothes, José says.
In September, José was taken to a juvenile detention center, where he stayed for three weeks, prior to an Oct. 5 court date. He was found guilty of theft and ordered to obey a curfew for the following year and to repay $1,600 he admitted stealing, which he’s doing in installments.
José’s happy to be living in Frederick. His Uncle Mario says he’s taking a hands-off approach to parenting, allowing José to come and go. For the boy’s recent sixteenth birthday, Mario bought him a cell-phone so they can reach each other.
José’s confident he can handle the freedom and responsibility his uncle is granting him.
“If I mess up again, I’m not gonna have the privileges I have now,” he explains.
He’s working two jobs, taking extra classes to make up for the time he missed, and obeying his 8 p.m. curfew. He wants to do well so he can attend college and eventually work with cars, he says.
His high school is smaller than his old school in Reston and far less diverse. He is the only Latino he knows of there. The rest of the 1,000 students, except for a few blacks, are white. In Mario’s home, José lives also with his Aunt Priscilla and three young male cousins.
José’s grandmother spent a recent Saturday in Frederick with her son Mario’s family and José, and says the teenager is dong well. He enjoyed when she and her husband visited him in the juvenile center, she says, and called her the week she couldn’t make it.
José says he’s the same person he was before running away, except 15 pounds lighter. He’s a good kid who’s done some bad things, he claims. And he’s trying to do better.