DETROIT (WWJ) – Detroit police are working to identify 10 or 12 people behind a vigilante mob attack that left a 54-year-old man clinging to life after he allegedly struck a child who had darted into the street.
As first reported by WWJ Newsradio 950, an 11-year-old boy suffered a broken leg when he was hit by a pickup truck after he walked into the street near Morang and Cadieux. When the driver got out of his car to check on the boy, about a dozen men on the scene attacked him, beating him unconscious, according to police.
Detroit Police Lt. Michael Woody said the injured child’s father has been arrested, but not in connection with the beating. The man, whose name has not been released, had an unrelated warrant on a fraud charge.
Woody stopped short of saying the father was involved in the actual assault, but said he was being questioned about it.
“I would ask that everybody reserve their judgments. Right now, we have a man in the hospital fighting for his life. It’s a tragic incident for multiple families,” Woody said.
Woody said the gas station at the corner where the accident happened is a popular neighborhood gathering place, so it was no surprise that there were 20 or 30 people at the scene of the attack.
“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.”
One woman stepped in to help the beating victim.
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.”
The boy who was struck was treated and released from the hospital.
However, the victim of the beating remained hospitalized in critical condition on Thursday.
Woody said it appears the driver was not at fault.
“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, and I think anyone of us would have done the same,” he said. “It was a small child and it was an accident; is what it was.”
Woody said they’re hoping the public can help police find those responsible for the beating.
“It was a very heinous crime. I want to remind all the listeners … that this is not a general characterization of how, you know, the city of Detroit and its residents generally respond in these situations,” Woody told WWJ’s Marie Osborne.
“At this point, based on [the pickup driver’s] condition, there’s some pretty serious charges that we’re looking at,” Woody said.
Meantime, some in the community are in shock about what happened, including Emily Pokoj who works at the nearby All-American Coney Island.
She said kids play in the street there all the time, and most people would just keep driving if they hit someone in this neighborhood.
“For someone to actually stop, you know…people should be thanking him for that,” Pokoj said. “It’s heartbreaking…It’s really sad. I still can’t believe it, you know. I’m glad I wasn’t here and didn’t have to witness any of that.”
Pokoj believes the neighbors know who did it, but she doesn’t expect witnesses will speak up.
“A lot of people around here, everything’s hush-hush,” she said. “The sad part is, probably the people that hurt him are going to come in the next day like nothing happened. I never know who I’m serving.”
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 anomalously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.