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Stowaway's Father: 'I'm A Parent, I'm Not Perfect'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The father of the 9-year-old north Minneapolis boy who snuck onto a plane to Las Vegas without a boarding pass was emotional as he talked about the problems he knows his son has and his failed attempts to find help.

Last Thursday, the boy made his way onto a Delta flight to Vegas at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. At a press conference on Wednesday, his father, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to the press about the ordeal.

His father said that day and the days since have been a "heartache" for the family.

He said this was his son's first time on a plane. They thought he was taking the trash out when he left and got on a light rail train to the airport. Because of multi-state issues, his son won't be back home in Minneapolis until Friday, where he'll be placed back with his family.

The boy's father said he's asked for help repeatedly but has been told that because the boy is a minor, there's nothing anyone could do.

"I'm a parent, I'm not perfect," he said. "We assumed he was at a friend's house. We had no idea where he was."

His mother had taken the day off of work to try and find him when he went missing. The mother, who wasn't at the press conference, issued a statement saying, "I love my son, I miss my son. I want my son home. I feel that people are pushing me for what my son has done."

She told family representatives from MAD DADS that she's working with Hennepin County and social services to get some help for her son.

The boy's father said he's never been to the airport, so he has no idea how his son was able to navigate the concourse and get on a plane.

They don't know how many times his son was on a light rail or how many times he went to the airport but he reportedly rode it a few times to figure it out.

He said his son is "not what you would call an honor student. He had his ups and downs."

His father spoke to his son's principal before about the boy's behavioral issues but they needed more help.

"I'm tired of people saying he's a minor, there's nothing we can do. There's something someone can do. I don't want him hurt. I miss my son. I want my son home," he said. (Continued...)

He said no one has communicated with him since his son's disappearance and he hasn't been able to talk with his son.

The day prior to his thousand-mile flight, the 9-year-old took a truck that was parked outside a downtown business.

He drove the truck onto the interstate, crashing into cars along the way, and was eventually stopped and told police why he did it.

"He told the police officer, he thought he was playing Grand Theft Auto," his father said.

The boy doesn't have violent video games but they believe he was trying to emulate what he's seen in those kinds of games.

"When he damaged those cars, I didn't know what was going on in my son's head. I just hoped and prayed that no one was hurt," he said.

His father said the boy's never been violent at home but was suspended from school for getting into a fight and was on suspension when the incident occurred.

"If we can just channel all that energy, he might be our next president," said V.J. Smith, of MAD DADS.

His father said he feels helpless.

"If I whoop my son, I go to jail. If I let him keep doing what he's doing, I get in trouble," he said. "Somebody please, please help me."

The boy's father said he's also concerned with the security at the airport and wants to know how this happened.

"How would you let a 9-year-old child go through security check without stopping him and questioning him?" he said. "He's not a terrorist, he's a 9-year-old child."

Kathleen Mathews works at Washburn Center for Children.
She says the center is expanding to meet the needs of more families looking for help with their children.

"The need has been great for a long time," she said. "There are kids whose wiring is different and you can be the best parent in the world and this child is going to be acting out."

Mathews said Washburn works with children of all ages and parents should not be afraid to speak up when they feel there is an issue with their child they can't handle.

MAD DADs is also working with the parents and will help provide a mentor to the child when he returns.

Part 1 Of Press Conference

Part 2 Of Press Conference

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