A nine-year-old US boy could face federal charges, officials said Thursday, after a cross-country odyssey that saw him board two planes without a ticket before touching down in Texas.
Samaj Booker is being held at a juvenile center in San Antonio after a bizarre journey that has exposed airport security standards and left red-faced US airlines scratching their heads.
The drama began on Sunday when police in Lakewood, just outside Seattle, gave chase to a stolen vehicle, reaching speeds of up to 145km per hour before the car finally came to a stop with engine problems.
But officers were astonished to discover that the driver was nine-year-old Booker.
"He didn't drive badly and was even able to avoid stop-sticks at one point," designed to deflate tires when thrown in front of a vehicle, Lieutenant David Guttu of Lakewood police said.
Booker was returned to his mother but she reported him missing as a runaway early the following morning.
Booker made his way to Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Washington state where the 144cm, 36kg youngster then persuaded agents with Southwest Airlines to allow him to board a flight to Phoenix, Arizona.
According to a statement released from Southwest Airlines, Booker presented himself as a 12-year-old at the ticket counter, requested a boarding pass saying his mother was already in the boarding area.
His information matched a paid, ticket-less reservation for the flight and the boy was issued a boarding pass.
The flight, originating in Seattle, landed in Phoenix where Booker was allowed to change planes and land in San Antonio.
When he attempted to board another plane to get to Dallas, Texas it was determined his information didn't match a reservation and police were called.
Guttu says the nine-year-old was "pretty dedicated, highly motivated and focused" to get back to Dallas where family members, including his maternal grandfather, live.
His mother told police he wasn't happy in Washington and "only considered Dallas his home" and he wanted to go home. He had lived in Lakewood for a couple of months.
Meanwhile prosecutors in Washington state are gathering information to determine how they will proceed.
Booker may eventually be served with a summons to answer federal charges of eluding police, stealing a vehicle and driving without a license.