DETROIT (WWJ) - In just one day, over $60,000 has been raised to help the family of a Roseville man who was beaten by a group of people on Detroit's east side pay for medical expenses.
Steven Utash, 54, remains in critical condition, under a medically induced coma after being viciously attacked by 10 to 12 men on Wednesday. The attack happened after Utash struck an 11-year-old boy who stepped in front of his pickup truck near Morang and Balfour. Utash stopped immediately to check on the boy but was attacked by a violent mob before he had a chance to even reach the child, who suffered a broken leg.
Utash's son Joseph told WWJ's Gary Lundy that his father is clinging to life, nearly unrecognizable due to his injuries.
"He has bruising over his face, his eyes are swollen, I believe it's his left eye that is completely swollen shut. He also has a big, huge knot on his forehead like he got hit with an object, not a fist," he said. "If it went on any longer, my dad wouldn't be in the hospital right now, he would be in the morgue. The way he looked, I am surprised that he is alive."
As if the whole ordeal wasn't hard enough on the Utash family, Joseph said his father doesn't have medical insurance to cover his hospital expenses, which are quickly racking up.
In order to help provide some type of relief, the family went online to create a fundraiser. In less than 24 hours, their initial $50,000 goal had already been surpassed, with more than 1,200 people donating.
Meantime, police are still trying to identify Utash's attackers. Sgt. Michael Woody said 20 to 30 people were involved in the mob, so many people know who was involved. No arrests have been made.
"It didn't take very long for people to converge on the area when they saw the accident take place," Woody said. "When the child was struck, he was in a lot of pain, there was screaming and crying. He was terrified, I'm sure, and I think that's what drew the attention of the people in the immediate area."
Joseph Utash said although it was tough to stomach, he watched video of the incident.
"It shows the kid, he was standing on the curb with his dad and as my dad's truck was coming down the street, the kid stepped right in front of my dad's truck. My dad had absolutely not one chance in the world to try to swerve out-of-the-way or stop," he said. "He got out of the car to check on the kid and before he even got up to the kid, he got assaulted by 11, 12 people. They jumped all over him and beat him up. While they were jumping him, somebody else jumped in the truck and stole his belongings. They took his wallet, his cellphone, everything out of his truck."
One woman stepped in to help Steven Utash. Nurse Debra Hughes intervened and stopped the attack: "He was already down, bleeding from the mouth and the nose – so there wasn't nothing else they could do to him but kill him," she said.
"Then EMS came and I kept him calm, I kept his hands down and everything so he could be comfortable," said Hughes. "He had the biggest gash on his head I ever seen – he was bleeding from the mouth and he was unconscious when I first got there … being a registered nurse, I thought I could go out and help him."
Woody said Steven Utash, who might not survive his injuries, wasn't even at fault for the accident.
"Our preliminary investigation shows the child stepped in front of his vehicle," Woody said. "He did exactly the right thing. He stopped his vehicle, he got out and he tried to render aid to a small child. He did exactly what he was supposed to do… It was a small child and it was an accident; is what it was."
Many have speculated that the attack was a hate crime, although police declined to say if investigators thought the attack was racially charged.
The boy, David Harris, is expected to recover from his injuries, according to his uncle, Desmond Key. No arrests have been made in the beating, but the boy's father was taken into custody, on an unrelated warrant.
"At this point, based on [the pickup driver's] condition, there's some pretty serious charges that we're looking at," Sgt. Woody said.
Reverend Horace Sheffield, executive Director of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations, released a statement making an appeal to the community to find the suspects and turn them in.
"Now is the time for all of us, not just Detroiters, but also all descent God fearing human beings... to step up and say and do something to lend a personal hand in helping the police and this family find those who committed such a heinous act. We need to show up in numbers and search that entire area block by block for these heartless perpetrators," he said. " I am calling on all... protectors and defenders of Detroit to prove that we equally deplore injustice and unbridled brutality no matter what color the victim is or of the one committing it."
Anyone who witnessed the attack, can identify the assailants, or who has any information about this case is urged to call Detroit police at 313-596-1616. Tips can be made anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.
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