Before a 9-year-old boy stowed away on a flight to Las Vegas last week, he had already stolen a car, sneaked into a Bloomington water park without paying and come under the scrutiny of child protection investigators, a Hennepin County official wrote Monday.
In a one-page e-mail obtained by the Star Tribune, Janine Moore, area director of the county’s Human Services and Public Health Department, told administrators and County Board members that since December 2012, county staff have conducted four child-protection assessments on the boy’s family.
“The reports have been inconsistent and there have been no injuries to the child; however, there is a pattern of behavior,” she wrote in the e-mail, marked “private data.”
She didn’t identify the boy, his family or where they live, but wrote that his mother works at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, so “there is also an investigation into whether she aided him flying to Las Vegas.”
Last Thursday, the boy passed through security and airline checkpoints to board a flight to Nevada without a ticket or boarding pass. His story captured national attention because of his preternatural cunning in eluding detection at supposedly stringent checkpoints that require identification and boarding passes.
The day before the flight, the boy had conducted a detailed reconnaissance trip at the airport that involved taking a piece of luggage from a carousel, then ditching it at an airport restaurant after eating there without paying.
On Thursday, to pass through the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) checkpoint for his flight, the boy reportedly blended in with a family with children.
He was seen on surveillance video chatting with a Delta gate agent, then walking down the jetway when the agent was distracted. The Vegas-bound flight had empty seats, and attendants didn’t realize what the boy had done until after takeoff, when his name wasn’t on the flight manifest as an unaccompanied minor.
When the plane landed in Las Vegas, the boy was met by local police, taken into custody and put in a foster home, Moore wrote. He became “violent” and was hospitalized, Moore wrote. Initially, hospital staff said he was “uncontrollable,” but he eventually calmed down, she wrote.
She wrote that a hearing was planned in Las Vegas on Monday morning to authorize his return to Minnesota. Neither Las Vegas nor Hennepin County officials would comment on the status of the hearing or provide an update on his location.
The boy is known to Hennepin County Human Services staff as a “challenging” child, Moore wrote. She said that two weeks ago, he stole a car and was arrested on “Highway 35.” The e-mail didn’t say whether the boy was driving or where he was arrested.
Reached by phone, Moore declined to comment further.
The boy also has a “history” of riding light rail to a Bloomington water park, where he “waits until a large family is entering and joins them,” she wrote. He has alleged that his mother held a knife to his throat, as well as that his mother was “stabbed and died.”
Of county interactions with the child, Moore wrote, “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.”
Boy’s future uncertain
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s child protection unit is reviewing the case, a spokesman said. Moore told county administrators that the boy’s future could go two directions.
If he has been mistreated, his case would go to child protection, she wrote. That could mean removal from his home.
If the boy has a mental health issue, then the response could be a “behavioral health response,” she wrote. Moore didn’t detail what the behavioral options are.
Because of his age, the boy cannot be charged with a crime.
Las Vegas police took him into custody when his flight landed and called Minneapolis police, who took a missing-child report and went to the boy’s home. The family said he hadn’t been seen since Thursday morning.