A 10-year-old boy who stole a car, led police on a high-speed chase and talked his way onto two Southwest Airlines flights has a chance to keep his record clean after a judge gave him probation.
Pierce County Superior Court Judge John McCarthy found Semaj Booker guilty Wednesday of second-degree car theft, attempting to elude police and driving without a license. But if the boy puts in his best effort at school, pays back the woman whose car he stole, doesn’t get behind the wheel for the next year and complies with other conditions, his conviction will be vacated.
“We hope that he’s successful and that we never see him again,” prosecutor Fred Wist said.
Authorities say the boy, then 9, took the neighbor’s car on Jan. 14 and sped down a state highway with police in pursuit, crashing when the car’s engine blew. Police believe he stole cars at least twice before that.
Officers released him to his mother following the January chase after they couldn’t find a juvenile detention center that would take him because of his age.
The next day, he lied his way onto a Southwest Airlines flight, telling employees at the ticket counter he was 12 and that his mother was already in the boarding area. He changed planes in Phoenix and flew to San Antonio before being discovered.
His mother, Sakinah Booker, said her son was unhappy in the Tacoma suburb of Lakewood and wanted to be with his grandfather in Dallas.
The boy has been in his mother’s custody since being returned to Washington.