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Published: Tuesday, 8/7/2012

Ohio runaways, 13, drive to St. Louis

BY ALLISON MANNING
COLUMBUS DISPATCH

COLUMBUS -- Cole Johnson has always wanted to go to California to skateboard.

The 13-year-old boy decided that Friday night was as good a time as any.

After an attempt at "making amends" with his mom at their Northeast Side apartment, police detectives said, he grabbed the keys to her BMW sedan and one of her credit cards and hit the road. He picked up his friend Raheem Harris, also 13, along the way.

"Every kid says what they want to do when they grow up," said Detective L.M. Perry of the Columbus police missing-persons unit. "I don't think the family realized he meant right now."

Missing-persons reports were filed for the boys and Cole's mom reported the 2008 BMW missing from her apartment the next day.

She cut off her credit card, but not before the boys had bought gas in St. Louis on Saturday night.

Sunday night, a "runaway" letter was found in Cole's apartment announcing his plans to go to California, Mr. Perry said.

The midsummer road trip was cut short Monday, when someone saw the BMW parked oddly in a downtown alley of Kansas City, Mo., 669 miles from Cole's apartment, and called police.

Police, who were on the lookout for the car and the runaways, found the boys sleeping in it at 7:30 a.m.

Cole and Raheem were taken into custody without incident.

"There was no drama," said Capt. Steve Young of the Kansas City police.

It wasn't the first time Cole drove his mom's car.

Gahanna police pulled him over last month about 4 miles from his apartment.

He was charged with a delinquency count of driving without a license and providing false information to a police officer, according to Franklin County Juvenile Court records.

Detectives aren't sure yet what the boys did during their weekend jaunt.

They found time to post Facebook updates, including two posts by Cole on Sunday afternoon saying he was headed to California and, later, that they were stuck in Kansas City, Mo., without any gas.

The car was towed, and the boys were turned over to Jackson County Family Court.

A spokesman there said she couldn't comment on what would happen to them, and Mr. Perry said she wasn't sure how they would come home.

Nobody answered the door at Cole's apartment Monday afternoon.

A man who answered the door at Raheem's house declined to comment.

Captain Young said he wasn't sure whether Kansas City police would be filing any charges against the boys.

"Our primary concern was getting them home safely," he said.



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