The 9-year-old boy who sneaked aboard a Delta flight to Las Vegas told his parents he was going to take out the trash before he disappeared, the boy’s father said Wednesday.
The unidentified boy’s father appeared at a news conference with his face obscured by a black hooded sweatshirt and black baseball cap. He said the family had repeatedly sought help for their son. Officials had said there was little they could do because the boy was a minor, according to the father.
The boy had been suspended from school for a fight, his father said. The suspension was extended, and the boy was still out of school when he got on board the flight bound for Las Vegas.
The boy is not an "honor student," the father said, and "had his ups, he had his downs."
Delta crew members called authorities in Las Vegas last Thursday after noticing that the boy was on the flight unaccompanied. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police and Child Protective Services took the boy into custody at the airport.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune cited an email from Janine Moore, director of Hennepin County’s Human Services and Public Health department, in which she said the boy exhibited a “pattern of behavior.” The email did not name the boy or his family, but detailed prior incidents in which the boy stole a car and alleged that his mother had threated him with a knife, according to the paper.
The boy’s father seemed to allude to the car theft – which the Star-Tribune said ended with the boy’s arrest – during the emotional press conference.
“Last incident, I hate to say it, but when he damaged those cars, I didn’t know what was going through my son’s head. I just hope and pray that nobody gets hurt, and it could have been worse than it is,” the father said. “He told the police officer he thought he was playing Grand Theft Auto.”
The father asked that the family’s wishes for anonymity be respected.
“How could you let a 9-year-old child go through a security check?” he said at the news conference. “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a 9-year-old child. He went through screening, he boarded the plane. How is that possible?”
NBC News’ Elisha Fieldstadt, Becky Bratu and Jay Blackman contributed to this report.
First published October 9 2013, 10:20 AM