The father of a 12-year-old boy who took his SUV on Toronto-area highways and roads early Tuesday says he is thankful his son is OK after the lengthy joyride, one that ended with police finding the vehicle at the side of the QEW.
“Not a day I want to go through again. I don’t know how to describe it… disorientating,” the father, who Global News is not identifying, told reporters Tuesday afternoon while reflecting on the incident.
“This boy has been a good, well-behaved boy. He’s obedient, he’s mild-mannered, he talks respectfully to everybody — anybody who’s met him. You know, it’s just unbelievable.”
Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto police said they received several calls from concerned drivers about a vehicle driving erratically between 1:30 and 3 a.m.
Representatives said officers received two complaints with matching vehicle and licence plate descriptions of a young-looking driver with his seat pushed all the way forward, driving with no lights on. The first complaint was in the Albion and Weston roads area and the second complaint was on Highway 401 westbound at Dixon Road.
An OPP spokesperson said the vehicle continued to Highway 427 from Highway 401, adding there were reports of a few “near misses” with other cars. Police found the vehicle at around 3:15 a.m., which stopped by itself on the westbound lanes of the QEW at Hurontario Street.
The boy’s father recounted how he last heard his son in the family’s north Etobicoke home at around 12:30 a.m. when his son went to the washroom. At around 3:30 or 4 a.m., he said he woke up after police came to the house.
“In the middle of the night, he was upset I guess. He packed his things. He had taken my car keys, which they’d gone missing in the evening,” the father said.
“The car was gone and there was police at the front door and you know I just thought, ‘Oh my God you know something terrible happened because the car was gone and one of my kids smacked it up or something,’ and fortunately that’s not what the case was.”
He said he doesn’t know exactly where his son went, but noted a quarter tank worth of gas was gone. The man said he was taken down to the scene to get his car and was eventually reunited with his son.
“He was kind of hiding from my gaze, you know, I guess he was so afraid I was going to be so angry … I was concerned,” he said.
“He was shocked. Look what he went through: He drove a car for the first time in his life, on the highway pulled over by the police, in the back of a police car.”
The father said he and his son are “easing into the situation” and there is “going to have to be some kind of punishment.”
“But that’s not the big part of this scenario. The big part is getting into his psychology, his brain, finding out what’s cause for something like this because this is a boy who doesn’t do wrong,” he said.
“He doesn’t break the rules and stuff like this, and then all of a sudden basically taking a car without permission when you’re only 12 years of age — that’s a pretty big thing.”
The boy’s father said he believes the pandemic may have been one of the factors leading up Tuesday’s incident, encouraging parents to keep an open dialogue with their children.
“I’ll be quite frank I think a lot of it is COVID-19, being in the house … he’s been isolated,” he said, noting the family has been staying close to home as a precaution since two family members have health conditions.
“These kinds of things can happen. No matter what you do, you can’t sit there and put a lock on their door that they can’t get out.
“Keep the lines of communication, and especially right now pay attention to what’s going on with your kids.”
The boy’s father said he wanted to extend a message to the motorists who called police to report the vehicle and to the officers for their response.
“Thank you very much for watching out for my son,” he said.
Meanwhile, OPP officers indicated they will not lay charges in connection with the incident. However, Toronto police have taken carriage of the investigation since the vehicle was taken from a Toronto home.