The distressed father of a wily 9-year-old boy who snuck onto a flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas pleaded for help with his son at an emotional news conference today in which he wore a black hoodie and baseball cap in order to remain anonymous.
"He wasn't listening, doing what he wants to do," the father said of his son. "It's so much. We ask for help."
The boy's father sobbed through the news conference. His face could not be seen, but his sniffles were audible and his shoulders were shaking.
On Oct. 3, the day the boy hopped the flight, his father was home with him and his mother was at a doctor's appointment. The boy went outside to take out the trash and didn't return, his father said noting his son was home because he had been suspended from school.
"I'm a parent. I'm not perfect," the father said. "We assumed he was at a friend's house."
The father said the "last time" his son was suspended, it was for getting into a fight at school, but he also noted his son was never violent at home.
The boy had in fact gone to Minneapolis International Airport, where his mother is an employee, and waited until a large family was going through a TSA security checkpoint. He then pretended to be part of the family as they went through security, according to a report by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The boy was then seen on surveillance video talking to a gate agent, waiting until the agent was distracted, and then walking down the ramp to the plane by himself. He boarded the Vegas-bound flight without anyone knowing, officials said. Officials discovered that he had even cased the airport a day earlier to devise a plan.
The next day the boy's mom took the day off from work and the parents began calling around to friends' houses looking for him, his father said.
The boy was found in Las Vegas and the dad said he still hasn't spoken to his son. Family spokesman VJ Smith said "interstate red tape" has prevented the boy from coming home so far, but they hope he will be back with his parents on Friday.
Reporters asked the crying dad if he felt he could provide his son with the help he needs at home or if he thought protective services might help.
"I can provide it at home. All I need is help," the dad said through tears. "I need the resources. I'm tired of people saying he's a minor and there's nothing we can do. There's something somebody can do. I don't want to see my son hurt. I miss my son. I want my son home."
The father said he had previously met with his son's principal and put a plan in place to help him. "He's not what you call an honor student," he said. "He has his ups, he has his downs."
The family spokesman said the boy could do great things with the proper guidance. "He might be our next president if we can just channel all that energy in the right direction," Smith said of the savvy child.
The boy has a history of daring infractions, having been stopped for stealing a car and repeatedly slipping into a water park, according to a leaked memo from the local county health department.
"He told the police officer he thought he was playing Grand Theft Auto," the dad said of the stolen car incident. "I didn't know what was going through my son's head. I just hoped and prayed that nobody got hurt and it could have been worse."
The health department official said that the boy's mental health and safety would be evaluated by county authorities.
The father also expressed some anger at the airline and airport.
"How would you let a 9-year-old child go through security check without stopping him and questioning him?" he asked. "He's not a terrorist. He's a 9-year-old child. He went through screening. He boarded the plane. How can that be?"