With his mother standing by and her cellphone camera recording, a 9-year-old boy drove a car in a Mankato parking lot with a Twin Cities man seated next to him, then rammed the vehicle into a building, according to charges against both adults.
Connor Q. Hudalla, 22, of Andover, and Natalia E. Franch-Gomez, 38, of Mankato, were each charged in Blue Earth County District Court with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Franch-Gomez was also charged with child endangerment. All charges are gross misdemeanors.
Officers were called to the YMCA's Chesley Skate Park in the 100 block of Jaycee Court shortly before 8:40 p.m. on Aug. 20 and saw the car had hit the building.
The skate park, which offers indoor and outdoor space for skateboarding, bicycling, in-line skating and scooter riding, was open at the time of the incident. The car punched a small hole into one side of the building. Hudalla suffered a head wound, but no bystanders were hurt.
According to the charges:
A police officer reviewed surveillance video from the building, and it showed the boy retrieving his skating helmet from one vehicle and getting in the driver's seat of Hudalla's car. The boy drove in reverse and then forward into the building.
The surveillance imagery also showed Franch-Gomez holding her cellphone and either taking a photo or recording her son driving.
Franch-Gomez told the officer that her son was admiring the vehicle, a sporty red Mazda Miata, in the moments before he got behind the wheel with Hudalla seated next to him.
A bleeding Hudalla told police at the scene that he allowed the boy to drive, and "the situation never should have happened," the charges read.
Hudalla said the boy went from putting the car's manual transmission into reverse and then into third gear before rapidly accelerating and crashing into the building.
The impact sent Hudalla's head into the windshield. He was not wearing a seat belt. Authorities have yet to say whether the boy was wearing a seat belt.
Hudalla and Franch-Gomez were each charged by summons. Court records list no attorney for either person, and neither could be reached for comment.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482