Stolen wheelchair returned to NJ teen with Cerebral Palsy; 1 arrested, police say
Leonia Police have arrested a Palisades Park man who allegedly stole a wheelchair belonging to a 14-year-old Cerebral Palsy patient and was then captured in a video taking it for a joyride.
Michael Peralta, 18, was arrested after Leonia Police Officer Sihoon Chung spotted the suspect and the wheelchair while on patrol Friday. Police are still searching for an Asian male suspect who is also wanted for questioning in connection with the theft. The wheelchair, however, has been recovered, police said in a statement.
Authorities say the $12,000 motorized wheelchair belonging to a child named Courtney was stolen from the teen's Broad Avenue apartment building at about 3:35 p.m. The theft was caught of video surveillance and authorities say "one of the suspects was observed on the video joyriding away from the scene in the wheelchair."
Shortly after the theft, the community began to rally around Courtney, who, according to a GoFundMe page, is totally reliant on the wheelchair to get around. The Leonia PBA Local 381 offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and a GoFundMe page to raise money for a new wheelchair was set up. The page raised more than $16,700 of a $20,000 goal in less than 24 hours.
Police say the Peralta is being held at Bergen County Jail. The Asian male suspect is not yet in custody. He is described by police as being possibly in his late teens, 5'6 to 5'7" and 140 pounds. Police say he was last seen wearing a black and white striped shirt, black shorts and black sandals.
Police are asking anyone with additional information to call the Leonia Police Department at 201-944-0800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.