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An 11-year-old boy in South Carolina allegedly snagged his brother’s car keys, got behind the wheel of a Buick and spent three hours cruising a busy interstate to go meet a mystery man he had met on Snapchat, who police say he planned to “live” with.
The child, who hasn’t been identified, turned up halfway across the state after officials said he drove 200 miles to meet a stranger he had been exchanging messages with. Authorities, by chance, intercepted him before he could make contact with the Snapchatting stranger.
“He took his brother’s car and drove to Charleston to live with an unknown male he met on Snapchat,” the Charleston Police Department stated in a press release.
The youngster’s Buick caught the eye of police officer Christopher Braun, who was sitting in his cruiser when he saw the car pull up beside him in a Charleston parking lot shortly after midnight on Sept. 23. He quickly observed the boy was the only occupant and approached the vehicle.
The boy told police he was lost, according to a police incident report obtained by Oxygen.com. He allegedly confessed he was headed to the home of the Snapchat user he had met, and was using his father’s Insignia tablet to navigate, but that the device’s signal had failed. At the same time the young motorist’s service slipped, he also lost the address of the man’s house he was reportedly driving to.
“He lost the address and he was unable to recover it because Snapchat messages disappear or are deleted after they are read,” the press release stated.
The child, who is reportedly in “good condition,” has since been reunited with his family. Authorities are now working to identify the man the boy was communicating with. They’re currently analyzing the family’s tablet for clues.
“Right now we’re just trying to figure out what happened, who this person [was] he was trying to meet,” said Charles Francis, a spokesperson for the Charleston Police Department.
Francis commended Braun, the officer who discovered the 11-year-old in the Charleston parking lot.
“He possibly could have saved this kid’s life,” he said.
“It’s very fortunate,” he added. “Thank God he’s okay because it could have ended very badly. God placed him there for that young man. He did his job beautifully.”
Yet, authorities across the state were flummoxed by the young driver’s tenacity — and his skills at the wheel.
“[I was] surprised, shocked — he drove the interstate without getting involved in an accident, without anything happening to him,” Francis added.
Officials were unable to explain how the young child knew how to drive or how he managed to sneak away with his brother’s car.
“It was quite a distance for him to drive,” Capt. Cheryl Manley, a public information officer for the Simpsonville Police Department, told Oxygen.com.
“But how he learned to drive a vehicle, let alone navigate himself almost across the entire state, I have no idea.”
It’s also unclear if authorities will press charges against the child or family in relation to the underage driving incident.
“It’s still an active investigation so at this point there’s no discussion as far as charges are going to be made or not, I can’t really go into that,” Manley added. “We are actively pursuing all other parts to this investigation.”
Snapchat has been used in several recent instances by alleged sex predators attempting to lure children using the messaging app.
"We need to be more engaged when it comes to our children and social media," Francis, the Charleston police spokesperson, added. "All of us do — as parents — we all do."
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