DETROIT (AP) — A suburban motorist who was brutally beaten by a Detroit mob after he stopped to check on a child struck by his pickup truck now is able to speak to relatives in a hospital, his daughter told The Associated Press Friday.
Doctors removed 54-year-old Steve Utash from a ventilator Thursday, Mandi Emerick said.
He had been in a drug-induced coma following an April 2 attack on the city's east side in which at least six people pummeled the Clinton Township tree trimmer as he tried to help a 10-year-old boy who stepped into the path of his truck.
"He looked at me and said my name and said, 'You're my daughter,'" Emerick told The AP. "He's not really there still. Sometimes he's able to understand and sometimes he talks just to talk.
"The doctors have said, 'Don't get discouraged.' It's really early. They say it's really good he is able to respond to commands."
Emerick first posted her father's medical progress on the gofundme.com website, where the family has received more than $160,000 in donations to help pay medical bills.
Utash suffered severe head injuries after being punched and kicked by the mob on the pavement outside a gas station. The boy he stopped to help, 10-year-old David Harris, was treated for a leg and other injuries.
Detroit police investigated whether the attack was racially motivated. Utash is white; his alleged attackers are all black. Of the five people arrested and charged, an ethnic intimidation charge has been filed only against a 16-year-old boy. He also was charged with assault and faces a hearing Saturday in juvenile court.
Utash remains in critical condition. The attack haunts him, according to Emerick.
"He says 'Help me! Get them off me!'" she said. "He gets worked up."
The family has been told it's too early to tell if Utash will suffer from memory loss of if he has any long-term damage.
"It's going to be a long time. It's going to be a long process," said Emerick. "We're taking it one day at a time."
Emerick, her siblings, other family members and friends attended a prayer service Thursday night at a Detroit church aimed at healing any racial divisions mounting from the attack.
The Utash family is seeking donations to help pay their father's medical bills. A page for Steve Utash has been set up at: http://www.gofundme.com/81r9sk