NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police in Queens were searching over a week for a wheelchair stolen from a teenager with disabilities on Christmas Day.
Investigators finally tracked it down, and CBS2’s Ali Bauman was there when officers delivered the it to the family’s doorstep Wednesday evening.
The custom-made black wheelchair isn’t motorized or decorated, but it was a beautiful sight when officers dropped it off in Jackson Heights.
“It was one of those things you really just stop everything and say this is one of the ones we need everyone involved,” NYPD Inspector Carlos Martinez said.
Michelle Martinez Molina has Rett Syndrome, a genetic brain disorder that’s left her unable to talk beyond a few words and completely reliant on a wheelchair like the one allegedly stolen by 34-year-old Minera Martinez.
The wheelchair was kept chained and locked outside the family’s 77th Street apartment because it’s too heavy for them to bring up and down the stairs every day.
“We did an extensive video canvass of the area,” officer Bryan Leibold said. “Video showed people known to the area go down in the alleyway, take the chair, and we were able to ID them later in the video.”
Cops found the wheelchair Tuesday afternoon at a park a few blocks from the family’s apartment and charged Martinez with grand larceny and possession of stolen property. Officers helped Antonia Molina carry the chair upstairs to her daughter, who Antonia says is relieved to have things back to normal.
“(It’s) part of our job,” Leibold said. “Everything we wanted to do for the family we got that done today.”
Officer Tyler Scala says they thought it was important to personally hand-deliver the chair.
“This is something she relies on a daily basis, and we wanted to get this done as quick as possible,” Scala said. “Wanted to get the investigation done as quick as possible and provide some closure for this family.”
After a devastating end to last year, now Michelle’s family has a hopeful start for the new one.
The chair was returned just in time — the teen’s school is back in session this week after winter break, and her family was worried she wouldn’t be able to attend without her chair.