TACOMA, Wash. – A judge set a court hearing for next month to determine whether a 9-year-old boy who ran away from home and talked his way onto two flights on his way to Texas may be charged in a car theft and police chase.
Semaj Booker, whose determined effort to get to his grandfather in Dallas made national headlines earlier this month, appeared briefly Monday before Superior Court Judge John A. McCarthy, who ruled there was probable cause to set a hearing in the car theft case.
Under state law, a child 8 to 11 years old is presumed to be incapable of committing a crime unless prosecutors prove he understood what he did and knew it was wrong. Finding probable cause, McCarthy scheduled a "capacity hearing" to answer those questions for Feb. 12.
The boy, who authorities say has a history of stealing cars and running away, is accused of taking a neighbor's car on Jan. 14 in Lakewood and leading police on a chase at speeds up to 80 mph before the engine blew.
Unable to find a juvenile detention center to accept the boy because of his youth, police returned him to his mother, Sakinah Booker.
She reported him missing the next morning, Jan. 15. That night, he was detained in San Antonio, where he had managed to fly from Seattle after giving Southwest Airlines agents a false name and claiming to be 12 years old. He had even changed planes in Phoenix before flying on to the Texas city.
The court case concerns charges of second-degree car theft and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, both felonies, and driving without a valid driver's license.
The boy remained in the custody of his mother but the judge also ordered that he remain under constant adult supervision, be kept home except for attending school and not drive any motor vehicles.