The 9-year-old boy who stowed away on a flight to Las Vegas told police "he thought he was playing Grand Theft Auto" when he drove a stolen delivery truck into an Edina squad car on Oct. 1, the boy’s father said in a press conference Wednesday morning.
“When he damaged those cars, I didn’t know what was going through my son’s head," the father said. “I just hoped and prayed that nobody get hurt.”
Wearing a baggy sweatshirt, hood drawn tight over a baseball cap to cover his face, the father lamented his inability to get help from social services for his rebellious son, during the news conference at the offices of the anti-violence group MADDADS.
The father said he was frustrated when a police officer told him he would be sent to jail if he beat his son, when the boy was returned home after stealing the delivery truck, according to county officials, police statements and family comments.
“If I whoop my son, I get locked up,” he said, his voice breaking. “If I let my son keep doing what he’s doing, I get in trouble. Somebody please help me, please.”
Before he boarded the flight to Las Vegas on Oct. 3, the boy had a lengthy history of troubled behavior, including sneaking into a water park, stealing a car and fighting at school.
Hennepin County has conducted four child-protection assessments on the boy’s family since December 2012, according to a private email obtained by the Star Tribune from a director at the county’s human services department. The email described the boy as a “challenging” child and detailed how he became “violent” and was hospitalized.
The boy has been suspended from school since Sept. 21 after a fight, according to his father.
On Oct. 3, the boy left the house to take the garbage out and disappeared, taking the light-rail to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where he boarded a Delta flight without a boarding pass or ticket. He had never been on a plane before, his father said.
The boy’s father expressed anger at the TSA and airline.
“How would you let a 9-year-old child go through a security check without stopping him and questioning him?” he said. “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a 9-year-old child. He went through screening, he boarded the plane. How is that possible?”The father said he hasn’t spoken to his son since he left the home. The boy appeared in a Nevada courtroom Tuesday and is expected back in Minnesota by Friday.
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