Reward Offered in Hit-and-Run That Hurt Autistic Man

A $5,000 reward was being offered to help find the driver responsible for injuring in April an autistic man who's remains hospitalized.

Authorities released graphic surveillance footage of the crash with the hope that the public could identify the driver.

Jeff Bell, 24, was hit April 23 by a bright, teal metallic GMC single cab pickup truck, officials said.

He was crossing the street near Chapman Avenue and Beach Boulevard in the city of Stanton.

“He was scalped,” his father Michael Bell said, adding it took 38 staples to reattach it. “He got the staples out yesterday and he has a pretty gnarly scar, but it's in the hairline fortunately and his face was spared,” Bell told City News Service.

Bandages were removed from the victim's burned left hand Wednesday to check a skin graft, he said, adding that the hand was healing well, Bell said. The victim may need another skin graft on his abdomen, Bell said.

“We're hoping that now he's healing rapidly that it continues like that,” Bell said. “It was miraculous there were no fractures, no internal injuries,” Bell said.

But Bell's son's "spirits are not too good. He misses his dog, being home. He cried the other day saying he just wants his normal life back. It's heartbreaking."

Michael Bell said his son is autistic and was transfering from one bus to another when he was hit. He was going to work at an Office Depot warehouse in Garden Grove.

Bell's son is a "high-functioning" autistic man, but his condition is making it harder to cope with the pain, Bell said. "Dealing with being in the hospital is difficult for a typical man, but throwing in autism it's a lot harder to cope."

If all goes well, the earliest the victim is expected to be released from the hospital is a week from this Saturday, Bell said.

The victim was in critical condition when he was first taken to a hospital, where he is being treated for burns and abrasions to more than 20 percent of his body and a severe laceration to his head, officials said.

Authorities believe someone has seen the vehicle due to its unique paint job and sticker placement on the left side of the rear cab window. The front-end of the truck also likely has damage, officials said.

It's unknown wether the driver of the pickup is a man or woman, or if a passenger was present at the time of the crash.

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the hit-and-run driver.

"Only a coward could knowingly inflict such pain on another human being and leave them for dead in the middle of the street," said Tom Dominguez, the union's president.

"It is a miracle Mr. Bell managed to survive this. We hope that someone will have the courage to do the right thing and identify the driver who seriously injured this young man."

Anyone who can help with the investigation was asked to call (949) 425- 1864. Anonymous tips may be phoned in to (855) TIP-OCCS, or (855) 847-6227.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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