Minn. boy who snuck on Vegas flight has troubled past, police say

7:45 AM, Oct 9, 2013   |    comments
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(CBS News) MINNEAPOLIS -- Tens of thousands of travelers pass through the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport each day. It's become common practice now to show identification and a boarding pass to make it through security check points.

But on Oct. 3, a 9-year-old north Minneapolis boy got past Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners at MSP check point number four without so much as a wink of suspicion. He was all alone with no parent or guardian at his side.

"They (TSA) check everything, at least that's what they're jobs says: to check everything," said airline passenger Art Herrera.

The unaccompanied boy went to the airport the previous night, where he stole a bag from baggage claim and sat down at an airport restaurant called Hotdish in the main terminal, reports WCCO-TVin Minneapolis.

The boy didn't pay for his meal of chicken tenders and a soda and left the table saying he needed to go to the restroom.

On Thursday morning, he returned to the airport by riding on the Hiawatha Light rail line. Just around 10:30 a.m. airport surveillance cameras show the boy passing through the check point without showing a boarding pass or identification.

He ended up walking down to a gate on concourse C, where he was able to enter the jetway and board the 11:15 a.m. flight to Las Vegas. Delta Airlines is investigating just how he was able to get by the gate agent without a boarding pass.

"Well, I think it's unusual that the airline would even let a kid on board without parental guidance or somebody following him," said passenger Nicole Kitagawa.

But when the Delta flight crew noticed the boy wasn't listed as an unaccompanied minor, they contacted Las Vegas police.

The boy was transferred to child protective services in Las Vegas. According to Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesperson Pat Hogan, the boy mentioned having a video game buddy who lives in Vegas. He said he was going to go see him.

Investigators there contacted Minneapolis police to file a missing person's report. Police say the boy's parents never reported him missing and were notified by Minneapolis police that he was gone.

Delta Air Lines issued a statement Monday saying it's reviewing its policies and procedures to make sure it doesn't happen again.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, "the child was screened along with all other passengers to ensure that he was not a threat to the aircraft."

Both the TSA and Delta say they are reviewing videotape of the child and are investigating whether they should make changes to security and gate protocols to prevent another incident like this one.

The Star Tribune reports that the boy's mom works at the airport and there's an investigation into whether or not she helped him get on the plane to Las Vegas. The Metropolitan Airports Commission, however, would not confirm his mom's employment.

The boy also has a history of sneaking into the Bloomington Water Park without paying, according to the Star Tribune.

Minneapolis Police also say that the 9-year-old boy actually stole a utility vehicle from downtown Minneapolis last Tuesday. He was getting onto I-35 southbound when he was pulled over.

There have also, allegedly, been four child protection assessments conducted on the boy's family since last December, and staff members have labeled him a "challenging child."

The boy remains in protective custody in Las Vegas Monday night, and there is expected to be a hearing on whether or not to authorize his return to Minnesota.

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