The father of the 9-year-old stowaway, who boarded a Delta Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas last week, says he’s asked for help and admitted the boy has been in trouble with a history of behavioral problems, but he feels helpless.
The father, who did not want to be identified, wore a cap under a tightly drawn black hoodie to cover his face during a meeting with reporters. He was accompanied by V.J. Smith of the anti-violence group MAD DADs.
“I’m a parent. I’m not perfect. We assumed he was at a friend’s house. We had no idea where he was,” the distraught father said.
He said he has not spoken with his son, who is still being held in protective custody in a foster home in Las Vegas. Smith, acting as a family spokesman, told reporters that the boy is expected to be back in Minneapolis on Friday.
The father said he could not understand how the boy, who had never been on a plane before, could have gotten onto the Delta flight to Las Vegas from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport without being seen.
He said his son had gone to take the trash out and instead jumped on a light-rail train to the airport.
The Star Tribune reports that the boy apparently blended in with a family with children to get through security. He was then seen on surveillance video chatting with a gate agent, then walking down the jetway and onto the plane when the agent was distracted.
The boy then sat in an empty seat until after the plane was airborne and flight attendants realized that his name was not on a flight manifest as an unaccompanied minor.
The Star Tribune says it obtained an e-mail from the area director of the county’s Human Services and Public Health Department to administrators and County Board members that the boy had became “violent” and was hospitalized and eventually calmed down.
The father said his son had been suspended from school last month for fighting. He also acknowledged that the boy had recently stolen a delivery van from a local noodle warehouse and crashed it into a police cruiser in the town of Edina.
The father said he asked the officer who brought him home to accompany him into the house while he disciplined the boy.
“I said, ‘Please, sir, can you go up with me and watch me whip his butt,’” the father told reporters. “The officer said, ‘If I see you hit your son, I’m going to have to lock you up.’”