Detroit begins to heal itself after innocent man beaten by mob

Five of a dozen men who brutally beat a driver that accidentally hit a boy who ran into a Michigan roadway last week have been booked on varying assault charges.

Steve Utash on April 2 had been driving down Morang Street on the east side of Detroit when he ran into 10-year-old David Harris, who had darted in front of the car before the driver could avoid a collision. Without giving it a second thought, Utash, a father of three children, stopped the car and went back to check on the boy.

Within seconds, a group of 10 to 12 men who had heard the collision walked up to the scene and surrounded Utash; they began punching and kicking his head, then walked away, only to return again to keep beating him, as surveillance video shows.

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It did not make sense to Utash’s children, when they heard about the accident and rushed to the hospital to see their unconscious father, why a person who had tried to help someone was physically torn apart by bystanders.

“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.

The episode has been deemed a hate crime by the Detroit police and charges were filed Thursday against a 16 year old who joined the other black men in the assault on a white middle-aged man.

Police have been discrete in their investigation, charging five individuals with assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do bodily harm, charges that are punishable from 10 years to life in prison.

The unfortunate situation, however, may be blossoming into an unexpected catalyst for change within the broken city.

As the story has unraveled over the last nine days, the public has been startled to learn of the two story lines within this tale; first, of a person who responded to an accident as any parent would hope an innocent driver would react if their child was unintentionally struck, and second, at the hateful response that ensued, leaving Utash in a medically induced coma that will likely leave him in the hospital for six months.

Although the men beat the good Samaritan within an inch of his life and are now receiving due consequences from the law, leaders within the Motor City community are calling for compassion toward one’s fellow man and as Mayor Mike Duggan put it, no more “senseless vigilante-style attack(s).”

City officials and leaders are determined not to let this incident further contribute to the disparate condition that already haunts the streets of Detroit.

Remarks from the police department, mayor of Detroit, community church leaders and family members commanding the clearly divided city to process the events carefully and respond appropriately.

“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. “We are asking all metro Detroiters to demonstrate our true character by exercising calm and patience during this emotionally charged time,” said Mayor Duggan and City Council President Brenda Jones in a statement.

On Sunday, ministers of predominantly black churches addresses their congregations, urging them to follow this act in a number of ways.

Rev. David Alexander of Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park cited a parable from John 9, referencing the “spiritually blind mob of young men who don’t see clearly, who flew into a rage.”

“Why are we so angry?” asked Rev. Larry Simmons, pastor of the Baber Memorial A.M.E. Church on Detroit’s West Side, asked in his sermon. “What’s wrong with us?” Simmons went on to talk about a culture of violence that “has infected our people” and is hurting southeast Michigan.

Rev. Maurice Rudd, who leads Greater Mt. Tabor Church in Detroit reminded congregants, “There are no boundaries to to love. Love crosses all racial barriers, all levels of class.

That’s what being a Christian is all about.” Rev. Jim Holley of Little Rock Baptist Church said he was “embarrassed and just overwhelmed by it,” but that these coming days and weeks are “a defining moment for Detroit.”

His church held a “Night of Healing” Thursday, where the Utash family, Mayor Duggan and all others were welcome to come together at a prayer vigil for Utash, the boy (who is expected to make a full recovery) and their city.

One pastor, Rev. Alexander Bullock of Greater St. Matthew’s, took it a step further Sunday and collected money for Utash’s medical costs.

“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,” said Bullock.

Because Utash is a tree trimmer, he does not have medical insurance and with doctors expecting him to remain hospitalized for the next six months at St. John Hospital and Medical Center due to multiple head injuries, his family created a Go Fund Me page, hoping to raise $50,000.

Instead, they have already been given more than $158,000 as of Friday morning, showing the better side of humanity amidst a bleak situation.

“This community is completely behind the Utash family. Spending time with them, I know they feel the outpouring of support,” said Duggan.

To give to Steve Utash, visit his Go Fund Me campaign site here.

Related post:

Truck driver attacked after trying to help child hit by vehicle


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