Metal Thief Steals Disabled Veteran's Wheelchair Ramp

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Metal thieves will take anything. Police say that was apparent Tuesday morning, when a man walked up to James Richardson's Southwest Wichita home and left with his wheelchair ramp.

The crime happened in broad daylight as Richardson, 72, watched helplessly through a window.

"It's unreal... how brave people are," Richardson told KAKE News. "It was bright daylight... It's crazy."

Richardson, a Navy veteran, has trouble walking. He spends most of his days confined to a wheelchair.

"I guess he was a crackhead," Richardson said of the crook.

Police say he's probably right. Most metal thieves commit crimes to support a drug habit, Lt. Mike Hennessy said.

Richardson's ramp was recently given to him by the V.A. Police estimate its value at $3,000. But the man who took it received $7 and change for the aluminum it contained.

The 50-year-old suspect was arrested only hours after the ramp was stolen, having sold it to nearby Wichita Iron & Metal. New city ordinances require metal sellers to show photo identification.

Police notified local metal companies of the theft, quickly learning the ramp had shown up not far from Richardson's home. A check of the compnay's photo ID records pointed police to their suspect. They didn't have to look hard to find him.

"Fortunately for us, this same individual came back [to the business] a couple of hours later and was arrested," Hennessy said.

Richardson's ramp was returned Wednesday. His son helped lock it in a garage for the time being.

"It's brutal," said Richardson's son, Jimmy. "This is my dad. He's a veteran. This is just sad."

"For somebody to steal from an old person or a kid or an old soldier... they're not doing very good," Richardson said.

The suspect was arrested for theft. Police plan to present their case to the District Attorney for charges.


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