Most kids who want to get out of going to church claim a stomachache or a fever — but not Preston Scarbrough. Like a modern-day Huckleberry Finn taking a joyride down the Mississippi on a raft, the 7-year-old Utah boy took a jaunt down the streets around his home.
In his father’s car.
With a growing number of cop cars chasing him with blaring sirens and flashing lights.
It all happened in Plain City, Utah, last Sunday, and the dashboard videos shot by Weber City Sheriff’s deputies have been quite a hit on the Internet. On Friday in New York, Preston told his story for the first time to TODAY’s Meredith Vieira.
Looking as innocent as a towheaded 7-year-old boy can look, Preston didn’t have a lot to say about a joyride that could easily have turned tragic. He left the heavy narrative to his parents, Daniel and Melanie Scarbrough, who are only now starting to see the humor in an event that they knew nothing about until their driveway filled up with police cars.
It was somewhere between 8 and 8:30 a.m. last Sunday. Melanie was still sleeping upstairs in the family’s home and Daniel was idly watching TV, thinking that the kids — Preston and his 15-year-old sister, Londyn — were still sleeping.
“I heard sirens coming down the street. I actually thought it was Preston getting up playing a video game, something like that,” Daniel Scarbrough told Vieira. “The sirens started getting louder and louder and louder, and all of a sudden I hear him come across the floor upstairs and come running downstairs.”
When Preston found his father, he gave him a quick bit of information.
“Dad, the cops are outside.”
Utterly clueless about the joyride his son had just concluded and the posse of pursuing patrol cars he had collected along the way, the father asked, “Oh, they’re outside in front of our house?”
“Yeah,” Preston said before scurrying out of the room and hiding in the basement.
Daniel Scarbrough still hadn’t caught on that any of this had anything to do with him and his exceptionally well-behaved son, who had never been the wild and crazy sort.
“I’m assuming it’s something happening across the street,” Daniel Scarbrough told Vieira.
That’s when the cops arrived at his front door and the mystery started to unravel.
“I’m trying to find some pants to put on, some shorts or something,” he said, smiling at the memory of the confusion. “By the time I did, I was coming to the front door, the officers were coming through the garage door and my back door.”
They had something they needed to tell him: “My son had just been involved in a high-speed chase.”
High-speed is a relative term. Preston never got the family’s white Dodge Intrepid over 40 mph on local streets, but, as the father pointed out, “It was high-speed for a 7-year-old, I guess.”
A Weber County Sheriff’s deputy had first noticed a car being driven by what looked like a boy of maybe 13 or 14. When the car ran a stop sign, the chase started in earnest.
When he got to the local high school, he led police on an orbit of the parking lot before turning back onto local streets and ultimately driving back to his home. He parked the car in the driveway, well short of the garage, hopped out wearing a tan shirt and shorts, and hightailed into the house, kicking up a cloud of dust as he ran.
The cops were actually rather impressed with Preston’s driving skills, especially as he had never steered a car before, not sitting on dad’s lap in the driveway or any other way. Vieira asked Preston how he had learned to drive.
“Watched my mom. Watched my sister,” he said, as if no other explanation was required. And, for a 7-year-old, it wasn’t.
He said he sat on the seat and peered over the dashboard.
Vieira asked if he knew he was in trouble when the police cars started following him with wailing sirens.
Preston sucked on his cheeks and nodded his head emphatically.