A 24-year-old autistic man struck by a hit-and-run vehicle in Stanton was struggling to recover in a hospital today, as sheriff's investigators asked the public for help identifying the driver.
The union representing sheriff's deputies also offered a $5,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction of whoever struck Jeff Bell near Chapman Avenue and Beach Boulevard about noon April 23. The suspect vehicle is a GMC pickup truck, Orange County sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hallock said.
"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."
Bell's son works in an Office Depot warehouse in Garden Grove and was on his way to work when he was run over, Bell said.
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," Bell said.
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, Hallock said.
The suspect vehicle, which has a sticker on the left side of the rear window, is a metallic bright teal color made between 1993 and 1996, and likely has front-end damage, Hallock said.
Video of the collision came from two Orange County Transportation Authority buses, Bell said.
The victim's father hopes the publicity about the collision leads to an arrest.
"We understand that accidents happen, but when someone strikes someone at that speed and drags them 100 feet and leaves them for dead, that's not an accident. It's a conscious decision, a very callous conscious decision," Bell said. "It makes everybody sick and makes them angry."
To the motorist who struck his son, Bell said, "Do the right thing. Own up to what you've done."
The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs announced today it 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.
--City News Service