As if being physically disabled wasn’t a hardship in itself, just imagine not having the proper tools that are meant to help you. For 18-year-old Michelle Molina of Queens, she was unfortunately put in the position when her wheelchair was stolen from right outside of her house on Christmas night.
But this wasn’t just a typical wheelchair, but one that cost Molina and her family $5,000. According to PIX11, Molina is “nonverbal, and suffers from scoliosis as well as a rare neurological disorder called Rett syndrome.” The custom built chair is the only thing that helps Molina move around.
“I felt that it was something important to the community” Deputy Inspector Carlos Ortiz, commanding officer of the 115th precinct told PIX11. “It’s one of those things where ‘wow, someone actually took a wheelchair from the side of the house’ that we felt we needed to get on top of it.”
And they did. Police followed up with surveillance footage in the area which helped them solve the case.
“We did an extensive video canvass in the area and we were able to retrieve video that the detectives later used to identify the chair,”New York Police Department Officer Bryan Leibold told ABC7NY.
“We did a followup with that,” Detective Michael Fischer told ABC7NY. “There were many people involved with this, other detectives, and they went to the scene and were able to identify the wheelchair.”
Awful circumstances brought us together but it was wonderful meeting Michelle Molina’s family with the @NYPD115Pct‘s Det. Johnson & Inspector Ortiz to return her stolen wheelchair tonight. pic.twitter.com/hsYlDxpyPq
— Francisco Moya (@FranciscoMoyaNY) January 3, 2019
The NYPD have now arrested Manera Martinez, a homeless woman, for allegedly stealing the wheelchair and have now been able to return it to Molina. NY1 reports that Martinez has been charged with grand larceny, and possession of stolen property. Police have now been able to return the wheelchair to Molina.
“She relies on it on a daily basis,” NYPD Officer Tyler Scala told ABC7NY. “So we wanted to get this done, wanted to get the investigation done as quickly as possible and provide closure for this family and reunite her with the wheelchair.”