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Mother’s proud of 9-year-old runaway son

/ Source: The Associated Press

The mother of the 9-year-old boy who took two flights in an attempt to run away to Dallas said she was stunned but proud to hear about her son's actions, according to a TV interview scheduled to air Wednesday night.

"He just showed me that, Mom, 'I'm going to achieve anything I want to do. I'm going to just do it.' So he did it, from driving a car to getting on an airplane," said Sakinah Booker on the syndicated TV show "Inside Edition."

In the interview, her son, Semaj, describes riding a bus to the airport and using a man's name he overheard on a Seattle-Tacoma International Airport loudspeaker page to get a boarding pass from Southwest Airlines, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the program.

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Beth Harbin said she hadn't heard about Semaj obtaining a passenger's name from a loudspeaker page.

Booker's lawyer, Brett Purtzer, said the mother was considering a lawsuit against Southwest Airlines.

The boy tried to run away to Dallas on Jan. 15 because he disliked Washington and wanted to be with his grandfather. After being stopped by airline employees in San Antonio and held in a home for runaways in Bexar County, Texas, the boy is back with his mother.

He faces charges in connection with a high speed chase in a stolen car on Highway 512 the day before his airline escapade.

The boy is accused of stealing a 1986 Acura from his neighbor in the Tacoma suburb of Lakewood and leading police on a chase at speeds of up to 80 mph, according to charging documents.

After his engine blew, police tried to place the boy at Remann Hall juvenile jail in Tacoma and at a Child Protective Services facility, but both places turned him down because of his age, according to Lakewood police. He was returned home to his mother that night.

"We do intend to proceed with the criminal charges that have been filed related to the incident on Jan. 14," said Fred Wist, chief prosecutor for Pierce County's juvenile division.

Talked his way on board
On Jan. 15, the 4-foot-9-inch fourth grader managed to talk his way onto two flights, from Seattle to Phoenix and then to San Antonio.

Southwest Airlines said Semaj presented himself as a 12-year-old, and therefore would not have been listed as an unaccompanied minor. He requested a boarding pass, saying his mother was already in the boarding area.

Because he's under 18 years old, he didn't have to show identification to get through airport security.

The boy was finally stopped by Southwest Airlines employees at San Antonio International Airport while trying to board a flight to Dallas because, officials said, he did not have information that matched a reservation.

Southwest Airlines is still investigating what happened that day, Harbin said.

"We are talking to every possible person we can to make sure we understand what happened," she said.