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Hate Crime Charges Possible in Mob Attack on Man Who Struck Youth with Pickup

Pastors across the Detroit metro talked about the attack in their Sunday sermons. One of them warned of a developing culture of violence that "has infected our people" and is hurting southeast Michigan.

Steve Utash is pictured at a happier time with his three children, Joe Utash, back; Mandi Emerick, left; and Felicia Utash, right. (Screenshot: Go Fund Me online fund-raising site)
Steve Utash is pictured at a happier time with his three children, Joe Utash, back; Mandi Emerick, left; and Felicia Utash, right. (Screenshot: Go Fund Me online fund-raising site)

Four people have now been arrested in the April 2 beating of a Macomb County man who accidentally struck a boy who ran into traffic on Detroit’s East Side.

Meanwhile, by early Monday evening, nearly $123,500 had been raised to offset Steve Utash’s accumulating medical bills through an online Go Fund Me campaign. When the family members of the tree trimmer, who has no health insurance, set up the campaign, they hoped to meet a $50,000

Utash, who recently moved to Clinton Township from Roseville, remains in critical condition in a medically induced coma in a Detroit hospital.

Wayne County Attorney Kym Worthy said Monday Bruce Edward Wimbush Jr., one of the two teens arrested Saturday in the mob attack on the 54-year-old Utash, faces charges of assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm, the Detroit Free Press reports.

He is expected to be arraigned in 36th District Court on Tuesday.

A 16-year-old who was arrested at the same time is in the custody of juvenile authorities and has not yet been charged.

Late Monday afternoon, two more people – both men, ages 24 and 30 – were arrested in the crime that has generated outrage across the country. Detroit  police Sgt. Michael Woody told the Free Press that authorities aren’t ruling out the possibility of charging the suspects under hate-crime statutes.

The assault-with-intent-to-commit murder charge against Wimbush is punishable by up to life in prison. The bodily harm charge is a 10-year felony.

Authorities believe the four who have been arrested so far were part of a larger group that attacked Utash after he stopped to give aid to David Harris, after he accidentally hit him.

“The facts of this case are unbelievably tragic,” police said in a news release, declining to offer further comment because the investigation is “continuing and widening.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Detroit Police Department at (313) 596-2260.

Pastors Address Attack in Sunday Sermons

On Sunday, pastors across the metro mentioned the crime in their sermons, asking congregants to put more money in the collection plate to help Utash’s family meet spiraling medical bills, the Free Press reported.

They also struggled to understand what caused the brutal attack.

“Why are we so angry?” the Rev. Larry Simmons, pastor of the Baber Memorial A.M.E. Church on Detroit’s West Side, asked in his sermon. “What’s wrong with us?”

At Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Highland Park, the Rev. David Alexander cited a parable from John 9 in which Jesus talks about why a blind man is blind, and said it’s up to the faith community to engage the “spiritually blind mob of young men who don’t see clearly, who flew into a rage.”

“They’re spiritually blind,” he said.

Alexander said his church will donate $1,000 to help offset Utash’s medical bills, telling congregants “this is an opportunity for us to do God’s work.”

The Rev. Maurice Rudd, whose congregation at Greater Mt. Tabor Church in Detroit is predominantly black, said love is universal.

“There are no boundaries to to love,” he said. “Love crosses all racial barriers, all levels of class. That’s what being a Christian is all about.”

Simmons said a developing culture of violence “has infected our people” and is hurting southeast Michigan and he urged congregants to perform random acts of kindness, which could be as simple as smiling at a clerk.
K. Scott April 10, 2014 at 05:59 PM
Greg, I really hate racism and you are correct about painting with a large brush. As a black man, what do you think it will take to get all these young men on the straight and narrow? I really would like to know your thoughts because you are seeing this from a far different perspective than most.
Love All April 10, 2014 at 07:50 PM
K. Scott,,, in a single word? Believe. To believe in ones self,, and self worth against all odds and all challenges. No matter our place in the world,, no matter our possessions or lack of,, to believe in yourself is crucial and that's what gives us strength to make ourselves better people.
Prometheus April 11, 2014 at 07:16 AM
Personal responsibility, respect, integrity.
Racer Boy April 13, 2014 at 10:41 PM
911 works pretty well if you need a Police report written...not so much if you need help in a timely manner.

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