The savage beating last week of a Detroit area motorist who accidentally hit a boy with his pickup truck has caused outrage throughout the region and country. But amid the senselessness of the attack, a beacon of hope and light has emerged.
Steven Utash, 54, was attacked on Detroit’s east side April 2 by as many as a dozen people. They brutally beat him with their fists and feet — and robbed him — when he got out of his truck to check on the 10-year-old he had hit.
Police said the boy, who suffered a broken leg but does not have life-threatening injuries, stepped into the street. Mr. Utash remains hospitalized in a medically induced coma with critical head injuries.
Several teens and adults are criminally charged with assault for participating in the horrifying beating. It is another awful blemish for a city that routinely suffers from a bad reputation. But then there is the story of Deborah Hughes.
Ms. Hughes, 56, a retired nurse, saw the injured child on the ground and ran out of her house to help. While she was tending to the boy, Mr. Utash left his truck and was attacked. Police say Ms. Hughes got onto the ground to shield him during the attack, yelling at the crowd and forcing his assailants to back off.
People often hesitate to get involved in predicaments that don’t involve them. Ms. Hughes selflessly put herself in harm’s way to protect a stranger, even as an estimated 60 other people from the neighborhood just watched. The crowd could have easily turned on her, but she stood her ground.
Ms. Hughes is what is good about Detroit. Hundreds of thousands of other Detroiters have the same generous hearts. This incident is another low point for the city, but it could have happened anywhere. There is evil everywhere, just as there is good.
Much of the dialogue that surrounds the incident is racially charged. The narrative is easy to accept in the racially polarized Detroit area: Mr. Utash, a white man, was victimized by an angry, black mob. City leaders have had to plead for calm and understanding while the investigation of the incident proceeds.
This week, a 16-year-old youth was charged with ethnic intimidation in connection with the beating. The newest charges suggest there were elements of race in Mr. Utash’s beating. But Ms. Hughes, an African-American woman, didn’t allow racial blinders to stop her from confronting the mostly black crowd — all to rescue a white man.
Ms. Hughes’ heroic acts likely saved Mr. Utash’s life, police say. Metro Detroiters have contributed more than $150,000 to help with Mr. Utash’s medical bills.
It’s hard to see any positives from this tragedy. But it is comforting to know that in the midst of evil, good remains.
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