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Fourth-grader leads Wash. police on 90-mph pursuit

The Associated Press
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A 9-year-old boy with a history of stealing cars and running away sneaked onto a plane bound for Texas, getting caught after flubbing an airport connection, officials said.

Semaj Booker apparently found a Southwest Airlines boarding card and made it through airport security Tuesday, hopping two separate flights but landing in San Antonio, Texas - short of his Dallas destination, police said.

"The only thing I have to offer on that is that were looking into it," Southwest spokeswoman Beth Harbin said.

The fourth-grader remained Wednesday in juvenile custody in San Antonio. He had been trying to get to his grandfather in Dallas, where he used to live.

The boy was unhappy after his family moved to Lakewood, outside Tacoma. His odyssey began Sunday when he stole a car that was left running outside a neighbor's house, only to be spotted by police near the interchange of Interstate 5 and State Route 512.

Police pursued Semaj at speeds up to 90 mph until he took an exit and the engine blew, after which the car went over a curb and coasted into a tree. He refused to come out of the car, so officers broke a window to unlock a door and immediately recognized him as a frequent runaway and car thief, Lakewood police Lt. David B. Guttu said.

Last month he also crashed a stolen car before being caught by police in Tacoma, and more recently he was caught in Seattle in a stolen car that had run out of gas, said his mother, Sakinah Booker.

She believes he learned to drive from playing video games on a PlayStation.

Booker said she had hoped to soon move her four sons back to Dallas, but Semaj grew tired of waiting.

Semaj was "incredibly motivated to get to Texas," Guttu said. "He doesn't want to live in Washington state."

Booker said her son dislikes the neighborhood where the family lives and is afraid of a sex offender who lives nearby.

"He does not like it here at all," she said.


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