Father of 9-year-old stowaway breaks down, pleads for someone to help his son
Screenshot of press conference today with the father of the nine-year-old stowaway and family spokesman, V.J. Smith
"Somebody please help me, please," said the father of the nine-year-old boy who sneaked on a plane to Las Vegas last week and made national headlines.
Shielded by a black hoodie and a baseball cap, the father tearfully explained to reporters this morning that he has asked authorities for help to no avail. He's expecting the boy to come home, once he's cleared through the courts, on Friday.
A picture of the boy has emerged in the last couple of days suggesting he's both cunning and troubled. In an email leaked to the Strib, one Hennepin County social service official described the boy as "challenging" and said he has a history of sneaking into a Bloomington water park. He may also have stolen a car last month and later a truck, which he then crashed into a police squad car.
"I asked the officer, 'Please sir can you go upstairs with me, watch me whoop his butt,'" the father said. "The officer told me, 'If I see you hit your son we're gonna have to lock you up.'"
A reporter asked him whether his son had understood the implications of his actions.
"He told the police officer he thought he was playing Grand Theft Auto," the father responded.
There's still no official word on how exactly the boy made a mockery of both the TSA and Delta Air Lines. His mother works at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and authorities are investigating whether she played a role in his free pass through multiple layers of security. The father denied that she played any part.
The boy was unaccompanied at the time, but possibly blended in with another family and walked down the jetway while a Delta gate agent was distracted. Once in flight, attendants realized that the boy wasn't on the flight manifest and alerted authorities on the ground.
Since December 2012, the Strib reported, Hennepin County has conducted four assessments on the boy's family. He has alleged that his mother once held a knife to his throat.
One social service official recently wrote in an email to administrators and County Board members, "Typically, staff can tell if a child is lying, but with this child, they are unsure what is going on. This is a two-parent home, and there is at least one other child."
At the press conference today, one reporter tried prying open the family dynamic, but the father didn't answer the question directly. V.J. Smith, a family spokesman and head of the Minneapolis chapter of MAD DADS, rephrased it for him: "Has [the boy] been violent at all?"
"Not at home," the father said, but noted that the boy had been suspended from school in September for fighting.
At one point Smith thanked reporters for allowing the father to speak without revealing his identity. Then he reiterated the father's point: The boy needs help from an outside source.
"If we can just channel that energy in the right direction, he just might be our next president," Smith said.
-- Email Jesse Marx at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @marxjesse
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