Cop tracks down tricycle stolen from special-needs girl
Surgery to remove a brain tumor left 12-year-old Charlotte Luther with little mobility on her right side
By Aaron Davis
East Bay Times
ANTIOCH, Calif. — After her adaptive tricycle was stolen while she was in the hospital, a young special-needs girl was in need of help.
Early Monday morning, two bicycles were stolen from a home on the 2600 block of Belmont Lane. What the suspect did not know was that the adaptive tricycle was custom made for 12-year-old Charlotte Luther, who would be returning from the hospital later that day.
According to Cate Luther, Charlotte’s mother, surgery to remove a brain tumor a year ago left Charlotte with little mobility on her right side.
After struggling with getting around, a friend of Cate’s suggested she set up a fundraising page with the Great Bike Giveaway, a national campaign to raise money for adaptive bikes for kids with special needs.
“Even before the brain tumor, she wasn’t really stable,” Cate Luther said. “This was the first bike she’s ever had where she could actually ride it. She had this smile on her face, a sense of independence. She was just loving it.”
Officer Dan Fachner of the Antioch police department was called to the Luther family’s home to take statements and file the police report. The father had seen a woman take the tricycle, but could not catch her in time.
The thief had also taken one of Cate Luther’s bikes, but she was more concerned with Charlotte’s bike. In searching for the serial number for the bike, Cate Luther found out that the adaptive tricycle had been custom made for Charlotte in late March. The bike, which included a back rest, steering assist bar and pedal pulley system, was worth approximately $4,000.
After speaking with police that day, Cate Luther went to bed feeling that the bike had either been sold already.
Fachner filed his report and finished his graveyard shift at 7:30 a.m. When he went back on shift that night, he was on a mission to bring Charlotte’s bike back.
“I started driving around a bunch of the shopping centers around their house and contacting people,” Fachner said. “A bunch of people told me they’ve seen the daughter riding it and she always seemed happy.”
A transient woman had seen a trike just like the one Fachner described around Sycamore Drive and Peppertree Way.
Fachner found 24-year-old Matthew Jefferson riding the tricycle around, and to Fachner, his story “that he just found it” didn’t pan out.
At 11:30 p.m. that night, Cate Luther got a call from Fachner with the good news.
“They seemed pretty happy and I was happy to be able to find it for the little girl,” Fachner said. “It says a lot when you got people in the community that say they always see her happy, riding it around. It strikes a chord.”
Officer Robert Gerber transported Jefferson to the station, while Officer Martin Hynes arranged arranged to get the department’s truck to deliver the bike back to the Luther family.
“It was just awesome. I felt the officer really went out of his way to make it happen,” Cate Luther said. “The fact that he found it, completely perfect the way it was, was a huge miracle.”
GOOD KARMA: An Antioch police officer’s dogged determination has reunited a girl battling severe health issues with her specially built tricycle, which was stolen from her yard. Charlotte is happy to be back on her trike and asked us to share this special message. http://abc7ne.ws/2qxqWwOPosted by ABC7 News on Thursday, May 11, 2017
©2017 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)