DETROIT (WWJ) – A 16-year-old is facing assault and ethnic intimidation charges in connection with the mob beating of a white Macomb County man on Detroit’s east side.
It’s the first hate crime charge filed in the case.
The teenager, whose name will not be released because of his age, is accused of beating 54-year-old Steven Utash with his fists and feet. Prosecutors say the teen will remain in custody and appear at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center on April 12.
Meantime, a fifth suspect, 19-year old Latrez Cummings, who was arrested Wednesday, has been charged in the case.
Three others: 17-year-old Bruce Wimbush, 24-year-old James Davis, and 30-year-old Wonzey Saffold, have already been charged.
Because Utash is white and the mob was described as all black, many — including Utash’s son — have questioned whether the attack was racially motivated.
However, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Thursday, that could not be proven in the case of the other four defendants.
“In the case of the 16-year-old charged as a juvenile can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the crimes of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and ethnic intimidation. In the case of the four adult defendants that have been charged, the facts and the evidence does not support a charge of ethnic intimidation,” Worthy said, in a statement. “We know there were numerous people involved in this case and the police are continuing to investigate, so I will not comment any further about the case.”
A week after the attack, Utash remains in a medically induced coma with bleeding in several parts of his brain.
According to police, Utash was driving home from his job as a tree-trimmer on April 2 when he struck a 10-year-old boy who stepped out into the roadway near Morang and Balfour. When Utash got out of his truck to check on the boy, police say he was jumped by 10 to 12 people.
“You hit my nephew, you’re going to die,” one man said, according to a witness.
Deborah Hughes, a retired nurse, said dozens of people stood around and watched as Utash was punched, kicked, and stomped on repeatedly. She’s being hailed as a hero for stepping in to stop the attack.
“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 told WWJ. “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 so many people, about 60 by her estimates, were standing around just watching the attack, she had to do something.
“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,” she said.
Police said Utash was not at fault in the accident, and did the right thing by stopping when he struck the child. The boy he hit was treated for a broken leg.
Detroit Police Chief Craig, earlier this week, said hate crime charges have not been filed against all defendants, but have also not been ruled out as the scope of the case widens. Craig said additional arrests in the case could be forthcoming.
Wimbush, Saffold, and Davis were arraigned earlier this week on charges of assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm. All three were jailed on $500,000 bonds and are due back in court on April 21. Prosecutors still awaiting information on the fifth suspect arrested.
Utash has no medical insurance, and his family has set up an online fundraiser to help pay for medical bills. In less than a week, more than $150,000 has been raised. To contribute to the Utash fund, click here.
A candlelight vigil is planned for Utash, Thursday evening, at Little Rock Baptist Church on Woodward Avenue. A number of church and local leaders are expected to attend the service they’re calling “A Night Of Healing.” The Utash family and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will also be there.