Minneapolis-Vegas stowaway took truck on 9-mile joyride - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Minneapolis-Vegas stowaway took truck on 9-mile joyride 2 days before flight

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Security checkpoint at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Security checkpoint at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Last week a 9-year-old stole this truck for a 9-mile joyride. All signs point to a certain plane hopper. Photo by Rob Olson / FOX 9 News. Last week a 9-year-old stole this truck for a 9-mile joyride. All signs point to a certain plane hopper. Photo by Rob Olson / FOX 9 News.

A county government memo obtained by the Star Tribune says the 9-year-old boy who hopped on a flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas last Thursday is known to county officials as a "challenging" child -- and FOX 9 News found planes aren't his only way of getting around.

"He's a 9-year-old that needs direction," said V.J. Smith, a spokesman for the family. "They know that. They realize that. They are looking for some support, looking for some help."

The 9-year-old boy was able to clear the airport security checkpoint and board a Delta flight last week despite having no boarding pass or identification. Officials said the boy slipped by security by jumping in line with another family.

"He's been thinking about how to make it happen, premeditated a lot of this," Smith said.

In an email obtained by the Star Tribune, Janine Moore, the area director of the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department, said child protection investigators have conducted four assessments on the boy's family since December 2012; however, she also said Tuesday that her memo on the boy was released without her authorization.


Moore's email said that prior to the airport incident, the boy's history includes vehicle theft and sneaking into a water park with another family.

The boy was first seen at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Wednesday, and a day earlier, a delivery truck was taken from the parking lot of United Noodles Wholesale near downtown Minneapolis by a young boy who was caught on camera. 

"It looks like he was having fun in our parking lot," Mei Dang, of United Noodles, told FOX 9 News.

The automatic truck had the keys inside, and video shows the boy hopping in and quickly figuring out how to drive it.

"I would say less than three minutes and he was out," Dang estimated. "He headed out to downtown and goes toward 35W to Edina."

The boy's dangerous joyride spanned 9 miles south and included a crash with a cop at the corner of 56th Street and Xerxes Avenue, near the border of Edina and Minneapolis, after an Edina officer used a squad car to block the intersection in an attempt to stop him.

"[The] moving type of bigger truck proceeded to come from the north and smash into the side of the police car," witness Tracy Peschel recalled. "The driver had slowed down somewhat and then just decided to push his way through and make the turn and keep going."

Minneapolis police stopped him seven blocks east at West 56th Street and Queen Avenue; however, children under 10 can't be charged. So, he was returned to his parents.

"Police at first said he was 14, and then on Friday, they said he was only 9-years-old and he believed this kid's at Las Vegas at this moment," Dang told FOX 9 News.


Minneapolis airport spokesman Pat Hogan said there are 2,000 cameras at MSP that documented the boy's path very well. The TSA is reviewing the video and must sign-off on its release before airport police can release it publicly.

Hogan said the boy was seen in the video talking to the gate agent, then slipping into the jetway as she helped other passengers.

A passenger on the Delta flight told FOX 9 News the boy was very courteous and nice, even initiating conversation. In fact, his only apparent problem appeared to be his inability to stow an umbrella in the overhead bin.

No one realized the boy was flying alone without a ticket until a flight attendant walked him up to the cockpit and told the pilot no one had documents for an unattended child.


The TSA is reviewing its procedures at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after the stowaway incident. Delta is also reviewing its policy.

In a statement, a Delta spokeswoman said, "We commend the flight crew of Flight 1651, whose vigilance and awareness of the cabin led them to proactively alert authorities to the situation prior to the aircraft landing in Las Vegas."


Las Vegas police met the boy as he was disembarking, and he reportedly told officers he had met someone from Nevada online and was en route to visit.

The boy was placed in protective custody in Nevada, and Hennepin County Child Protection is now involved in bringing him home. Smith told FOX 9 News the boy's parents want the boy back home with them; however, with Child Protection Services in two separate states involved, there are no guarantees.

"That's what we're hoping for right now -- that when he comes home, they we can take that wisdom and that knowledge that the 9-year-old has and make him a much better person," Smith, of MADD Dads, said.

At this point, no one will comment on when that may happen; however a television station in Las Vegas reported Monday that a GPS ankle bracelet has been put on the boy to ensure he doesn't evade authorities again.

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