DETROIT — The 54-year-old Michigan tree trimmer severely beaten after he accidentally struck a child who had stepped into the street earlier this month is breathing on his own, according to his daughter.
“He is off the ventilator and is able to breathe on his own,” Mandi Marie Utash posted Friday to a GoFundMe.com page she and her brother set up for their father, who they say does not have health insurance.
Steven Utash was set upon by about a dozen people after his truck struck a 10-year-old boy, police said. After Utash stopped his vehicle to help the boy, he was “severely beaten” with “fists and feet,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement.
Authorities credited a woman who stepped in as Utash was being attacked with saving his life.
Mandi Marie Utash wrote that her father doesn’t seem to know what happened to him or why he was in the hospital, but that he is able to wiggle his toes on command and answer yes or no questions. “These are baby steps,” she says.
She wrote that her father “keeps flashing back to the assault screaming for “HELP” and “PLEASE GET THEM OFF ME.”
“This is a long road ahead,” she said. “But the end of the road will be worth it.”
Steven Utash had previously been in a medically induced coma.
Jennifer Moreno, a police spokeswoman, told CNN that all of the alleged assailants were African-American and that none are known to be related to the boy or his family. She said the beating was “a spontaneous response.” Utash is white.
Five suspects ranging in age from 16 to 30 have been arrested so far and charged with assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm, according to Worthy.
The 16-year-old, who is charged as a juvenile, is accused of ethnic intimidation.
The state of Michigan’s penal code says a person is guilty of ethnic intimidation “if that person maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, gender, or national origin, causes physical contact with another person [or] damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another person.” It can carry a prison sentence of up to two years.
On Saturday, the 16-year-old had his preliminary hearing and was ordered held on $400,000 bond. His next court appearance will be April 17.
The prosecutor’s office said the boy who was struck by Utash’s truck was taken to a local hospital and treated for a leg injury. He is at home recovering.
Some have suggested that the attack reflects racial tensions in the city. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and City Council President Brenda Jones issued a statement Friday asking for calm.
“This senseless vigilante-style attack is not the essence of who we are as Detroiters and will not be tolerated,” the statement said.
Utash’s other daughter, Felicia Utash, told CNN affiliate WXYZ that she doesn’t want to believe the assault on her father was a hate crime, but she is pleased that suspects have been apprehended.
Police were searching for the remaining suspects.