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Idaho cops arrested a 9-year-old boy after he failed to show up for a scheduled court appearance last week for the second time. His original crime, according to police? Stealing a pack of chewing gum.
But the Kootenai County prosecutor says it was his office that blew it. Prosecuting attorney Barry McHugh said Monday there should have been a child-protective investigation so that the boy's family could have been better informed about the case — and authorities would have avoided issuing an arrest warrant. "I regret this having taken place and will do everything in my power to avoid this type of mistake in the future," McHugh said in a statement obtained by NBC News.
Details of the theft have not been released because the alleged bubble gum bandit is a juvenile. The boy's family told Post Falls police that they had no way of getting to court last week and the child had also missed his first assigned appearance. "Had we known that before the court date, we would have provided something for the family," Post Falls Police Chief Scott Haug told NBC affiliate KHQ on Friday. "I wish we would have had more information that way we could have provided some sort of assistance."
Haug added that this was the first time he had ever seen an arrest warrant for someone as young as 9. While the infraction — swiping a pack of gum — seems particularly minor, it's not uncommon for business owners to press charges for petty thefts, Haug said.