DETROIT (WWJ) – A Detroit nurse is being hailed as a hero.
Deborah Hughes stopped first to help an injured boy after he was hit by a pickup truck driven by Steven Utash.
Utash struck the 11-year-old boy after he 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.
Hughes said the driver was very upset and asked repeatedly if the boy was alright.
Not long after that, witness accounts say five men started beating Utash.
Only one person stepped in to help Utash: Deborah Hughes, a nurse. In an exclusive interview with WWJ Newsradio 950, Hughes said she was one of the first people on the scene.
“I was going to the store and I saw the baby on the ground, crying, and he was by himself. So I asked him what happened and he told me that a truck had just hit him, and he was hysterical,” Hughes told WWJ’s Sandra McNeill. “Then, a man came out of the store and said he was the father and he got him. He had calmed down from crying, daddy was there, you know, so he was fine.”
Hughes never expected what happened next.
“I look over and I see about three or four guys saying, ‘You hit my nephew, you’re going to die,’ and I look over and seen the man on the sidewalk,” she said. “About five guys was kicking him, beating him, stomping him in the head with they feet. They were beating him, from his face to his side to his feet.”
Hughes said so many people, about 60 by her estimates, were standing around just watching the men beat on Utash, she had to do something.
“When I ran over there, everybody got back and one guy, they had to hold him because I guess he wanted to get me too. He kept saying, ‘He hit my nephew, he hit my nephew. This n**** is fitting to die,’ but I said, ‘No he’s not, he’s not going to die today,’ and they stepped back and let me have him,” she said. “I was willing to get hurt over helping that guy. He was bleeding, he had a big gash on the side of his head and he couldn’t take any more licks and I wasn’t willing to stand there and let them keep beating him.”
Hughes said she put her training as a nurse into action while someone else called paramedics.
“He was bleeding and going into convulsions and stuff, so I got one side of his head and I started rubbing it, you know, he was unconscious and just in a state of shock,” she said. “After the EMS drivers got there, about 10 minutes, he came back to and he started moving and kicking around, and I told him, ‘You can’t move baby, don’t move. Everything is going to be OK.’ And we got him settled down, EMS got him strapped up and they took him to the hospital.”
Hughes said she couldn’t believe not one other person stepped in to help Utash, who likely would have been beaten to death.
“They were fitting to kick him and beat him some more and I told them they are not going to hit him anymore, they are not going to put their feet on him. The guys that were standing there were fitting to stomp him in the head again, and after I got there I told them, ‘Y’all can get back. Y’all not going to hit him anymore, you’re not going to kick him,’” she said. “But I got in there. I was very afraid but when you see somebody being abused, if you’ve got a good heart you’re going to step in. Or, you’re going to let it happen and everybody out there was letting it happen and I wasn’t going to do that.”
Hughes said after Utash regained consciousness, he repeatedly asked if the boy was alright.
“He was so traumatized, this man was like, ‘Is he alright? Is he alright? Oh Lord, tell me he’s OK. I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’” she said. “He didn’t drive off. He got out the truck and he walked back, and they just beat him like he was nothing.”
Days after the attack, Utash is still unconscious. His family has set up an online fundraiser to help pay for medical bills. Less than 24 hours after the effort started, more than $60,000 had been raised.
Police arrested two teenage boys in connection with Utash’s beating.
According to police, the 16- and 17-year-old boys were taken into custody Saturday morning. Other details about the arrests were not immediately released.
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.