April 10, 2014 at 11:22 pm

16-year-old accused in mob beating motivated in part by race, source says

Daughter Mandi Emerick with her father, Steven Utash, who is in critical condition after being beaten by an angry mob in Detroit. (Family photo)

Detroit — When investigators interrogated a 16-year-old about his alleged participation in last week’s mob beating of a Clinton Township motorist, he said he did it in part because the man was white, according to a police source familiar with the case.

The teenager was the only suspect questioned in connection with the April 2 beating of Steven Utash who mentioned race as a motivator, the source said, which is why he was charged Thursday with ethnic intimidation, along with assault to do great bodily harm. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged the youth as a juvenile.

The police source said the four other men arrested in the case told investigators they beat Utash because they were angry he hit 10-year-old David Harris with his truck after the youth darted into traffic near Morang and Balfour on the city’s east side.

Following the accident, for which police said Utash was not at fault, a mob began kicking and beating the 54-year-old until retired nurse Deborah Hughes intervened. Utash remains in a medically induced coma in St. John Hospital.

Worthy said the 16-year-old is being held in the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center. He is scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“As in all cases with multiple defendants we must evaluate each person’s actions individually to assess their alleged criminal conduct,” Worthy said. “In the case of the 16-year-old charged as a juvenile, we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the crimes of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and ethnic intimidation.

“In the case of the four adult defendants that have been charged, the facts and the evidence does not support a charge of ethnic intimidation,” Worthy said. “We know there were numerous people involved in this case and the police are continuing to investigate, so I will not comment any further about the case.”

Utash’s daughter, Mandi Emerick, wrote Wednesday on a website set up to raise funds for his medical costs: “Our dad is the same. We are sill waiting to hear his voice.”

Thursday night, nearly $157,000 had been raised by about 3,900 people to defray medical costs for Utash, who doesn’t have health care coverage.

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday for a service to help spur racial healing at Little Rock Baptist Church at 9000 Woodward.

Others charged in the beating are: Latrez Cummings, 19, who is scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning in 36th District Court; Bruce Edward Wimbush Jr., a 17-year-old East English Preparatory Academy student; Wozney Saffold, 30, and James Deontae Davis, 24, who were arraigned earlier this week.

Each defendant was charged with assault to commit murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. Bond was set at $500,000 each. The men are scheduled to return to court April 21 for preliminary examinations to determine whether they will stand trial.

Assault with intent to commit murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while assault to do great bodily harm is a 10-year felony. Ethnic intimidation carries a two-year prison penalty.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Wednesday there’s a “strong possibility” more arrests will be announced in the case. Craig said police are getting “some” tips from the community.

“We’re working hard to identify all the suspects, but we don’t know the total number, and we may never know,” Craig said.

A city ordinance, passed 9-0 Tuesday by the Detroit City Council, will help identify suspects in future cases, Craig said. The ordinance aims to strengthen licensing requirements for self-service gas stations, requiring indoor and outdoor digital surveillance cameras.

ghunter@detroitnews.com
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