Posted at: 10/08/2013 7:13 AM
Updated at: 10/08/2013 5:38 PM
By: Maricella Miranda
A 9-year-old, who snuck onto a plane last week at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and flew to Las Vegas, was making the trip to meet someone he had met online, an airport official said Tuesday.
The boy possibly met the person through a video game, said Patrick Hogan, MSP spokesman. His mother told authorities that the family has no friends or family in Las Vegas.
The boy reportedly took a light rail train to the airport on both Wednesday and Thursday. Before boarding the flight for Las Vegas, the boy spent at least part of his time at Hot Dish, a restaurant in Terminal 1.
Alone at the Airport
Hot Dish server Jacob Smith said the boy came in Wednesday and ordered a soft drink and chicken wings.
“He was sitting there for a while and looked a little suspicious,” Smith said. “He ended up having to use the restroom, so I told him to leave his luggage there."
Once the child left the restaurant, he never came back. The luggage the child left was allegedly stolen from a baggage carousel at the airport, according to airport officials.
"I think it's out of control that he got on an airplane and flew out of here, supposedly,” Smith said. “It blows my mind. I think he's a little con artist. Beware. Beware of him because I've never seen anything like that before."
It’s unclear where the boy was between Wednesday and Thursday, when he took the flight to Las Vegas.
On Thursday, airport officials said the boy was seen on surveillance video killing time on the escalators before heading to security. Once at checkpoint 4, the boy was surrounded by travelers. The boy blended in by standing in line with a family and was able to pass multiple TSA agents without a ticket.
At the gate for the flight to Las Vegas, security video shows the boy talking with a gate agent. He then waited 20 to 30 seconds while the agent helped another customer before making his move and walking onto the plane.
Arriving in Las Vegas
Delta flight crew members were the first to throw up a red flag Thursday, noticing the child was flying alone and not on their roster of unattended minors. The flight crew then handed him over to authorities in Las Vegas.
Child Protective Services in Clark County, Nev., said the boy was in their custody as of Monday night, and ABC affiliate KTNV reported that a GPS tracking bracelet was put on the child in fear that he may slip away again.
Airport and airline officials are reviewing video and gathering information as they try to figure out how the boy evaded security and stowed away on the flight. Delta Air Lines issued a statement Monday saying it's reviewing its policies and procedures to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The Transportation Security Administration says he was screened along with other passengers to ensure that he was not a threat.
Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer said Tuesday that the boy's parents filed a missing person report after police notified them he was in Las Vegas.
A Troubled Past
Hennepin County Child Services will be involved in the case when the child returns to Minnesota. It is unclear when that will be.
According to an email obtained by the Star Tribune, a county government memo stated that the boy has a history of stealing cars and sneaking into a water park in Bloomington.
The area director of the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department stated that child protection investigators have conducted four assessments on the boy's family since December. Janine Moore writes in the memo to county officials that he's known as a "challenging" child.
Moore said she couldn't comment when reached by The Associated Press on Tuesday and would not say whether the memo had been quoted accurately.
"That information went out without my authorization, so there's nothing more I can share with you about that memo," she said.
Hennepin County spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan said the memo is classified as private under the state's Data Practices Act, which governs which government records are public and which ones aren't. She said she couldn't disclose any other details about the county's involvement except to say the boy is safe.
The boy became "violent" and was hospitalized in Las Vegas, where hospital staff reported he was "uncontrollable" at first but eventually calmed down, it said.
KSTP has left messages for Marinan and Moore. Neither responded as of Tuesday afternoon.
A hearing in Las Vegas about the boy's case was scheduled for Tuesday, said Chuck Laszewski, spokesman for Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. The child protection division in the county attorney's office will also investigate but was waiting for officials in Las Vegas to wrap up their work, he said.
The boy's parents did not attend the hearing, according to ABC News.
Anyone under the age of 10 is too young to be charged with a crime, according to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. The office plans to become involved in the case at some point.
Police have not released any details about the boy's identity or his family members.
The following is a statement from Leslie Scott, Delta spokewoman:
"Delta continues to work with authorities and look into the circumstances involving an un-ticketed minor boarding an aircraft in Minneapolis-St. Paul. 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. Safety and security are always Delta's highest priorities and we are reviewing our policies and procedures to make sure something like this does not happen again."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.