DETROIT — As Steve Utash lies in a Detroit hospital bed, with his brain swollen and a gash in his head, he appears to remember the brutal beating that a neighborhood mob inflicted days earlier.
“He wakes up and his arms start struggling and he says, ‘Help me! Help me!” said Terry Emerick, a family friend.
Utash remains in critical condition — two days after accidentally hitting a 10-year-old boy with his company pickup on Detroit’s east side and being pummeled by at least a half-dozen people after stopping to check on the child.
The mob left the 54-year-old tree trimmer from suburban Detroit on the pavement outside a gas station.
A grainy, surveillance video from the gas station camera shows the boy, David Harris, with a group of friends as he steps from a curb into the truck’s path Wednesday afternoon.
“Hit and runs are very common epidemic in this city. This particular gentleman did stop and try to render aid, and did try to help the child, and then the unfortunate events occurred,” said Detroit Police Department Sgt. Michael Woody. Sgt. Woody told WXYZ-TV 7 that the driver did the right thing by stopping to help.
Watch interview with nurse who helped Utash after his beating:
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Friday that Utash did “the right thing by stopping to check on the boy” and that anyone who can identify his attackers should step forward.
“This senseless vigilante style attack is not the essence of who we are as Detroiters and will not be tolerated,” Duggan said in a joint statement with City Council President Brenda Jones.
The boy is recovering in a hospital from injuries that are not considered life-threatening.
His uncle, Desmond Key, said Thursday that the family does not know any of the attackers. He said family members rushed to the scene after one of the boy’s friends ran home and told them about the accident. Key said he saw six to seven guys punching and kicking the pickup driver as he tried to fight back.
Emerick, whose son is married to one of Utash’s daughters, said Friday that Utash’s paycheck was taken during the beating and equipment was stolen from the truck. Woody said police cannot confirm that Utash was robbed.
Utash lives northwest of Detroit in Clinton Township and occasionally has tree-trimming jobs in Detroit.
Those who know Utash are upset over the beating and concerned about his recovery.
“It’s just pathetic that an accident would happen and everyone would gang up on him like that,” Emerick said. “It’s really ridiculous. The whole neighborhood jumps on him and beats the hell out of him. What prompts people to do heinous crimes like that?”
So far, more than $83,000 has been raised to help Utash with his medical expenses, the Detroit News reports.
If you know anyone in connection to the beating, please call Detroit Police at 313-596-1616 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.