HOUSTON -- The father of a 9-year-old Minneapolis boy who last week sneaked onto a Las Vegas-bound flight said Wednesday that he had struggled unsuccessfully to discipline his son before the incident.
The man appeared before reporters Wednesday but asked not to be identified, obscuring his face with a dark cap and a hooded sweat shirt from the anti-violence group MAD DADs (Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder). Beside him was the president of the group's Minneapolis chapter, V.J. Smith, who also read a statement from the boy's mother, who did not attend: "I love my son. I miss my son. I want my son home."
The father said he had not spoken with his son since he flew to Las Vegas. The boy was expected back in Minneapolis on Friday, Smith said. The father said he could not understand how the boy made it through security and onto the Delta flight Thursday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
"He's not a terrorist — he's a 9 year-old child," the man said in a halting voice.
He said his son was supposedly going to take the trash out but instead hopped a light-rail train to the airport while the father was home and his fiancee, the boy's mother, was at a doctor's appointment.
"He made the decision on his own," the man said, adding that at first "we assumed he was at a friend's house."
It was the boy's first plane trip.
It was not the first time the boy had defied his parents and the law.
He recently was caught joy riding, said the father, who complained that when he asked the officer who brought the boy home to accompany them into the house while he punished him, "The officer said, 'If I see you hit your son, I'm going to have to lock you up.' "
The man said he did as the officer directed.
"I gave the officer my word — I didn't punish him, I didn't hit him," he said, "What can I do?... If I let him keep doing what he is doing, I get into trouble. Someone please, please help me."
The man acknowledged that his son needs 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.
Smith said local social services officials have offered to assist the family and that they were receptive. But he also said the boy's family had been unable to get assistance from government agencies in the past because their son wasn't troubled enough.
"They had reached out for help with a few organizations," Smith said, adding that the family was told that the boy had not done "enough wrong yet and that he was just a bad kid but in order for us to take any more action he has to do something a little more serious, and I think that has happened at this time."