LEONIA, N.J. — Lisandra Delgado knew something was wrong when one of her teens didn't show up Friday for a summer camp after-care program at the Leonia Middle School.
That's because someone stole 14-year-old Courtney's motorized wheelchair from outside of his family's Broad Avenue apartment building on Thursday.
UPDATE (Sat., July 16): Police charged a Palisades Park man with stealing a disabled Leonia teen's motorized wheelchair.
Courtney, whose parents asked that his last name be withheld, has cerebral palsy and depends on the special $12,000 chair to get around. Without it, he can't leave the house, they said.
“His mom told me that [the thieves] don’t have her son, they have his wheelchair,” Delgado said outside of the family’s Broad Avenue apartment complex on Friday.
“We are sad that anyone would commit such a horrible and thoughtless act," she said, "but we have faith in the goodness to overcome all evil.”
A GoFundMe page launched to help replace the chair raised more than $8,000 in hours, with donations continuing to pour in Friday evening.
Courtney's case also hit home for Leonia Police Chief Thomas Rowe, whose 19-year-old daughter has special needs.
“After 25½ years, I thought there was nothing left in my career that would shock me or disturb me,” the chief said. “That’s not the case.”
Rowe said his first priority is recovering the chair.
His department released three videos -- one of the theft and the other two of the primary suspects -- that he said he hope crack the case.
To help things along, PBA Local No. 381 was offering a $1,000 reward. Anyone with information that can lead to the wheelchair's recovery is asked to contact Leonia police: (201) 944-0800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I don’t sleep much when these cases go on,” the chief said. “I couldn’t think in my wildest dreams why someone would do this.”
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