EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – A little boy from East Palestine really wanted a cheeseburger.
Police say the 8-year-old swiped the keys to the family van and drove to the local McDonald’s Sunday night with his 4-year-old sister riding shotgun.
Patrolman Jake Koehler got the call on the radio Sunday night of a child driving a vehicle.
Koehler pulled into the town’s only McDonald’s and found the boy still behind the wheel. His first question: What are you doing?
“Me and my sister really wanted a cheeseburger,” the boy told Koehler.
The boy had stood on his tiptoes to get the keys and took his 4-year-old sister with him for the food run. Patrolman Koehler still had some questions.
“I asked him how he learned to drive,” Koehler said. “And he said he looked it up on YouTube videos on how to drive.”
The child started on East Martin Street, made one right turn, and went through four intersections. He didn’t hit a thing and even obeyed every traffic signal, stopping for red lights and waiting until they turned green.
The entire route was a mile and a half.
Koehler points out that the van the boy was driving was not a newer model with power steering, which means he had to put some muscle into it to even turn the steering wheel.
“When he pulled up to the first window, employees actually thought they were being pranked,” Koehler said.
The parents were not in the back of the van as employees thought they would be.
They were at home.
The vehicle was surrounded by adults in the McDonald’s parking lot and the boy was crying when Koehler started talking to him, realizing he might be in trouble.
“It is kind of funny,” said Regis Steiner of East Palestine. “But being a parent, it would be kind of scary knowing your 8-year-old son went down through the middle of town and took his 4-year-old sister in your van.”
Colt Lester of East Palestine says it was pretty impressive that the child could make that far without hitting anything.
“To go out and not break any traffic laws — in fact, obey them — I’ll give him credit for that,” Lester said. “Especially learning from a YouTube video – that’s something else.”
Koehler is back on the beat, but he knows this call will be tough to beat.
“Honest to God, I’ve been a patrolman for two years and I don’t think I will have anything like this the rest of my career,” Koehler said.
The children got their cheeseburgers, fries and chicken nuggets before Koehler took them to the police station and waited for their parents to pick them up.
The boy may get in trouble at home, but police are not filing any charges.