Disabled Iraqi war veteran carjacked in Detroit, questions decision to come home
Detroit — A disabled U.S. Army veteran is questioning his decision to return to Detroit after his military discharge because he said his hometown reminds him of the war zone where he served two tours of duty.
Daniel Chapman, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving two 15-month tours in Iraq in the early 2000s, was the victim of an armed carjacking Monday on the city's west side.
The incident happened on Memorial Day, and Chapman said it brought back memories of "close brothers" he "lost at war."
"It's sad," said Chapman, 36. "I was stationed in New York (toward the end of his military service), and I was thinking about staying there. But I decided to come back to Detroit because my family was here — but things like this make me regret coming back."
The incident happened about 1:45 a.m. in the 9400 block of Woodward near Arden Park Boulevard, police said.
"I was at a birthday get-together in Highland Park, and after I left I stopped off at the store to get some juice for my 10-year-old son," Chapman said. "He's autistic and likes to have juice when he wakes up.
"I stopped at a store that had the flashing green light (as part of Project Green Light, a program that aims to curb crime around Detroit businesses); I said it's a well-lit location, which I take into consideration before I stop somewhere," Chapman said.
"So when I get out of the store, I was getting ready to grab the handle (on his black 2011 GMC Yukon truck), when a guy came up from behind me and said, 'I'll bust you right now,'" Chapman said. "I looked down and saw a gun, and I'm in shock, thinking, 'is this really happening?'
"I handed him the keys, and the $18 I had in my pocket," Chapman said. "He got in the truck and I asked him if I could have my phone at least, so I could call for a ride. He threw the phone out the window, and backed the truck up into another car before he drove away."
Chapman said Detroit police arrived less than five minutes after his 911 call.
"There were 3-4 cop cars speeding down Woodward looking for my truck," he said. "They haven't found it yet, though."
Police on Tuesday released photos and a video of the carjacking that was captured by a security surveillance system.
Chapman said the carjacking exacerbated other problems he's dealing with.
"I'm disabled; I have PTSD and four bulging discs in my back from my military service," he said. "And right now, I'm out of work because of an injury. I'm a supervisor in an auto plant, but I broke two bones in my ankle, and the doctor hasn't cleared me to get back to work yet.
"I'm waiting on short-term disability to kick in, but until then I'm surviving on my VA disability," Chapman said, adding because he's been out of work, he was unable to pay insurance on his truck, so he can't recoup the loss if the vehicle isn't recovered.
Chapman started a gofundme.com page, hoping to raise $15,000 to replace his stolen truck. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, he had raised $750.
"A terrible start to my Memorial Day," he wrote on the page. "Being a disabled veteran I really take pride in Memorial Day as I too have lost close brothers at war."
Chapman said this is the second time in recent years he's been victimized by criminals.
"I had a (Dodge) Charger that was stolen from in front of my house three years ago," he said. "They found it hours later stripped to the bone.
"Detroit had two million people 20 years ago, and now they're down to a few hundred thousand," Chapman said. "There's a reason people are leaving: It's all the crime."
Anyone with information about the carjacking or the suspect is asked to call Detroit police at (313) 596-2555 or Crime Stoppers of Michigan at 1 (800) SPEAK-UP.