The family of a Roseville tree trimmer who was severely beaten after he accidentally hit an 10-year-old boy on his way home from work Wednesday has set up an online fund-raiser to help defray medical expenses.
Steve Utash, 54, has no medical insurance and remained hospitalized Friday in critical condition at St. John Hospital and Medical Center with multiple head injuries. Donations are being collected on the Go Fund Me site, where 900 people had contributed nearly $37,000 of a $50,000 goal by Friday night.
After his pickup struck the boy, who was shown running out in traffic on video from a security camera at a nearby gas station, Utash was mobbed by a large group of men who beat him unconscious. He doesn’t appear to have violated any traffic laws, Detroit police said.
The boy, David Harris, is recovering from his injuries at a Detroit hospital, the Detroit Free Press reported.
'I Don't Understand the Aggression'
Utash apologized for hitting the boy and pleaded with the men to stop beating him, family members speaking at a Friday afternoon news conference said they were told by Detroit police.
“They beat him for a little while and let him go and then came back,” Utash’s daughter Mandi Emerick said. “I don’t understand the aggression or why they were so angry at him.”
Joe Utash learned what had happened to his father when he saw his pickup on local television news broadcast. He told reporters he is having difficulty getting his head around what happened to a man he knows as a law-abiding, kind-hearted person who was quick to help others.
“He’s never been in any trouble his entire life,” he said. “He always helped everyone in need. They said he was saying, ‘Sorry, sorry.’ Why would you do that to him? He stopped. He tried to help. To see him be surrounded by all of those people and to see all those people coming after him, it’s completely unfair.”
Joe Utash called Emerick and his other sister, Felicia Utash, and the three of them rushed to the hospital, where they’ve held vigil, hoping he will come out of his medically induced coma.
“I’ve never had that much faith in God, but when I walked into that room and saw my dad, I got on my knees and prayed to God,” Joe Utash said, tearing up. “We just want him to remember us. To remember his grandkids.”
“It’s hard to see him like that,” Felicia Utash said. “We’re all still like, is that our Dad? It’s hard to see him laying in the bed, not knowing where he is.”
The family said they’re overwhelmed by the generosity of the people, who are donating $5, $10, $25, $50 and $100 at a time.A Clinton Township man who donated $1,000 commented, “Wish I could give and donate more. I have your backs … if I can do more, I will.”
In addition to the money being raised on Go Fund Me, the Rev. David Alexander Bullock, pastor of the Greater St. Matthew’s Baptist Church in Highland Park, said he plans to take up a collection for the family at his Sunday service. He also hopes to mobilize area churches to join in a benefit concert to help pay the medical bills.
“I think what happened is a wake-up call for the Detroit community at large,” Bullock said. “As a pastor, I go to the hospital a lot and am aware of how much of a strain that is on a family. (Instead of) just sending love and condolences, or praying, let’s do something. I think that’s what we can do.”
Felicia Utash said she’s floored by how the community has come together to support her family.
“As much as people say the city is so bad, everyone is pulling together,” she said.
Mayor Calls for #Calm, #Compassion
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan decried the “senseless vigilante-style attack,” the Free Press said.
In a Tweet Friday, he asked for a reasoned response from outrage community members. “This week a group of young men showed who they were when they beat Steve Utash. Let us show who we are in our response. #calm #compassion,” the mayor tweeted.
The mayor and City Council President Brenda Jones issued a joint statement Friday calling for witnesses and others with information to come forward. Police don’t have any suspects.
“We are asking all metro Detroiters to demonstrate our true character by exercising calm and patience during this emotionally charged time,” they said.
“Most important, we must all keep Mr. Utash, David Harris and their families in our prayers. We also are calling on members of our community who know the individuals involved in this brutal attack to step forward so that justice can be served and healing can begin.”