Teen charged in Detroit mob beating; police say race may be factor

A Detroit magistrate Tuesday set bond at $500,000 for a 17-year-old male who along with three others is a suspect in the possibly racially motivated beating of a driver who struck another boy’s leg with his car.

The 10-year-old boy was treated and released. But the driver, 54-year-old Steven Utash, has been hospitalized in critical condition for a week, according to prosecutors. As many as dozen people may have been involved in the beating.

A 16-year-old charged as a juvenile appeared in court on Monday.

On Tuesday, Bruce Wimbush Jr., 17, was charged as an adult in Michigan's Third Circuit Court with assault with intent to murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. Two other men, Wonzey Saffold, 30, and James Deontae Davis, 24, are scheduled to be arraigned on the same charges later Tuesday or Wednesday. 

After Tuesday's hearing, attorney Randall Upshaw told reporters that the bond amount for Wimbush was unexpectedly high for someone who allegedly left the scene before the incident grew "serious."

Detroit Police Chief James Craig told reporters Monday that the investigation was widening to explore the possibility that race may have played a factor. The suspects are black and Utash is white.

Utash, a tree trimmer, was on his way back from work when the accident happened. Surveillance video footage shows a boy being knocked to the ground by a car immediately after he steps off the edge of a curb.

Police said Utash was not at fault in the vehicle-pedestrian collision. He had exited his truck to check on the boy when he was mobbed outside of a gas station, according to prosecutors.

The alleged assault reportedly ended when a retired female nurse who lives nearby intervened to start treating Utash, according to the Detroit News. Deborah Hughes said that she had first come outside to help the boy who was hit when she turned and saw the attack.

Utash's family created a website seeking donations to help with his medical expenses because he is not insured. The family has thanked supporters on Facebook, saying that the "support has provided a shining ray of light during this dark time." St. John Providence Hospital declined to provide an update on Utash's condition on Tuesday afternoon, citing patient privacy.

In a statement Monday, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy called the facts of the case “tragic.”

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