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Police Press Search for Missing Boy : Children: Christmas Day outing turned into a nightmare for the family of Andy Rodriguez, 3. A $25,000 reward is offered for information on his whereabouts.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The excitement of opening presents was over, and the early afternoon was teetering on the edge of boredom when Jesus Rodriguez decided to take his family out to join the Christmas Day crowd along Broadway.

He and his wife, Esther, along with his sons Jesus, 7, and Andrew, 3, had come to Los Angeles from Indio to spend the holidays with her family just south of Downtown. The Rodriguezes hopped a bus and headed for the shopping district.

After hamburgers at McDonald’s and another stop to buy earrings for his 17-month-old daughter, Rodriguez, 28, took his boys to a crowded video arcade in the 700 block of Broadway while his wife shopped nearby.

Both boys were at his side as he began to play a game called “Street Fighter II” with his older son shortly after 3 p.m. “After a minute, I turned around and Andy was gone,” Rodriguez said. His family has not seen him since.

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Police have scoured the area, passing out flyers and checking out any spaces where a 3-year-old could fit. “We’re hopeful and very optimistic that we’re going to find Andy well,” Officer Rigoberto Romero of the Los Angeles Police Department told reporters Monday.

A businessman who asked to remain anonymous has put up a $25,000 reward for information leading to finding the boy, Romero said.

“I just want him back,” Esther Rodriguez said, sobbing. “We want to see him real bad. I know my baby is upset. I know he’s crying for me and for his daddy.”

The Rodriguezes had planned to return to Indio on Sunday, but “we will have to stay until we find him,” Esther Rodriguez said.

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When her husband noticed that Andrew was missing, he dashed next door to a clothing store where his wife was shopping. “I thought Andy was with her,” he said, “but she thought he was with me.”

He then searched 2 1/2 blocks of Broadway, from the arcade to Olympic Boulevard, before returning to the arcade to call police.

“There have been no signs of him yet,” he said. “A Spanish-language radio station said a caller told them she had seen an old couple with a baby. They seemed to be looking for the baby’s parents.”

Police have not been able to find the couple, said Rodriguez, a cook at the Prime Time Restaurant and Sports Lounge in Palm Desert.

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“We can barely sleep,” he said. “I keep thinking of what he might be doing right now. I know he’ll be home pretty soon. I hope so.”

Police urged anyone who was in the arcade about 3:15 p.m. Saturday, when Rodriguez realized his son was missing, to call (213) 485-6588.

“Perhaps someone has some information,” Romero said, adding that anyone who has the boy could drop him at a police or fire station.

“I feel something empty in my heart,” Rodriguez said. “I hope the person who has my child will return him.”

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Police described Andrew as 3 feet tall and weighing about 50 pounds. He has brown hair and blue eyes. On the day he disappeared, he was wearing a red turtleneck shirt, black pants and white, high-top tennis shoes.


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