Fresno man has custom wheelchair stolen at knife-point

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A young Fresno man with Muscular Dystrophy needs help to finding the wheelchair that was stolen from him Tuesday at knife point.

Derrick Gutierrez has only had this specialized chair for about a month, but he relies on it to help him get around and be independent. Tuesday, the $11,000 wheelchair was stolen during a frightening confrontation. Now Fresno Police are investigating. "He said get out or I will kill you."

Derrick didn't know what to do when he was ordered out of his wheelchair on Harvey and Clark in Central Fresno. "I was trying to fight back. I was pushing him away, but he kept coming on."

The suspect got away with the wheelchair leaving Derrick to walk three-quarters of a mile home. "I cried all the way home."

Derrick was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy three years ago. Today, the disease has progressed to the point where a wheelchair is necessary to improve his mobility and quality of life. A few months ago, his medical insurance finally approved a custom chair, designed for his needs. "You know, he's only had it for a month and a half and with everything on my plate insurance just went ding-- out the window. It's irreplaceable. I could never replace something like that," said Kathy Merkel, Derrick's mother.

The $11,000 wheelchair is also compatible with various attachments that Derrick will need as the disease becomes more debilitating. Derrick's mom is hoping the thief will have a change of heart, after realizing the value of the wheelchair to them is priceless. "That would be great if the thief would just bring it back, you know. That would be fantastic. But, you know, how many times does that happen? "

Police are now investigating the crime and Derrick is both angry and sad about the crime and how it's crippled his independence.

In April, Derrick had heart failure and spent 17 days in the hospital. Right now, his heart is functioning at only 20-percent, so he also cannot over exert himself.
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