Father of boy who hopped flight: 'No one stepped up to help'

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Story highlights

  • Boy sneaked past a "distracted" gate agent
  • 'Somebody help me, please," dad says, referencing son's behavior problems
  • The boy hopped a flight from Minnesota to Las Vegas last week
  • Dad: The boy stole a truck and was suspended from school for fighting

The father of a 9-year-old boy who hopped a flight from Minnesota to Las Vegas last week tearfully told reporters Wednesday that he'd previously asked for help to address the boy's behavior problems, but no one responded.

"Somebody help me, please," the father, who did not reveal his name, told reporters between sobs at a news conference hosted by the MAD DADS fathers' organization in Minneapolis. The boy "wasn't listening. (He does) what he wants to do."

A MAD DADS spokesman said Wednesday that Hennepin County officials are now offering to step in with services and programs.

Authorities have been trying to figure out how the boy slipped past security and airline gate agents at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last Thursday and boarded Delta Flight 1651 to Las Vegas without detection.

The boy, who had left home the day before, went through security with other passengers, the Transportation Security Administration said.

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Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the airport, said that surveillance video shows the boy briefly talking to a Delta gate agent before the flight.

A short while later, the video shows that the agent became "distracted," and that's when the boy was able to sneak through and board the plane, he said.

    Hogan said the crew later "became suspicious of the child's circumstances." Crew members got in touch with authorities in Las Vegas and turned the boy over to Child Protective Services, Hogan said in a statement.

    Detained in Nevada, the boy will be returned to Minneapolis because that is "where issues will be addressed," a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN. It was unclear when he would return to Minnesota; the MAD DADS spokesman said he believes it could happen Friday.

    Drawing a sweatshirt's hood tightly to his face to obscure his identity, the father said Wednesday he tried to ask assistance from police and social service officials because of his son's previous indiscretions, including allegedly stealing a vehicle just days before the flight. He turned his back to television cameras.

    "I've been asking for help. No one stepped up to help," the dad said, head bowed.

    Social workers reportedly are no strangers to the boy. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported this week that Janine Moore, area director of the Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department, wrote in an e-mail to agency officials that child protective workers investigated the boy's family life four times.

    "The reports have been inconsistent and there have been no injuries to the child; however, there is a pattern of behavior," the newspaper quoted her as saying in the e-mail.

    The "pattern of behavior" included sneaking into an area water park and a recent arrest on suspicion of stealing a vehicle, she wrote, according to the newspaper.

    The agency did not immediately return a CNN telephone message seeking comment on the Star Tribune report.

    The newspaper reported there is an investigation into whether the boy's mother, who works at the Minneapolis airport, helped him fly to Las Vegas. The paper didn't report who was conducting that investigation.

    The father said Wednesday that his son left home October 2 after indicating he was going to take out the trash. From that North Minneapolis neighborhood, it appears he rode a train to the airport, said the MAD DADS spokesman, sitting next to the father during the news conference.

    "I'm not perfect. We assumed he was at a friend's house," the father said of that night.

    The boy's mother, noticing he hadn't come home, took Thursday off to call around and report him missing. Authorities told the family later that day that the boy took the flight to Nevada, the father said.

    Police detained the boy on October 1 on suspicion of stealing and driving a truck, the father said. He said his son didn't fully understand what he'd done.

    "He told the police officer he thought he was playing 'Grand Theft Auto,'" the father said. The MAD DADS spokesman added that the family does not own the video game.

    The truck had keys in the ignition and was stolen out of a business parking lot, according to a police report. Officers received a tip that its driver appeared to be a child.

    When police drove the son home after the truck incident, the dad asked whether he could discipline the boy by "whupping" him. The officer replied that if he did, the father would be put in jail, the father said.

    "If I whup my son, I get locked up. If I let my son keep on doing what he's doing, I get in trouble. Somebody please help me. Please," he said.

    The boy also was suspended from school in September because of a fight, according to the dad. The father -- who said he's tried "working side by side" with his son, including helping with homework and taking him to the father's workplace -- added that agencies told him previously there wasn't much they could do because the boy is a minor.

    MAD DADS -- Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder -- said it would offer the dad support, including possibly mentoring the boy.