Thief steals house's wheelchair ramp

06/30/2010 12:00 AM

06/30/2010 2:56 PM

WICHITA — James Richardson was lying in bed Tuesday morning when he looked out the window and saw a stranger walking down the street with what looked like his wheelchair ramp.

"I don't move too quick," the 72-year-old Richardson said, "and by the time I got to the front door, he was gone."

So was the ramp he used to get outside his south Wichita home.

"It's despicable," said Lt. Mike Hennessy, who heads the Wichita Police Department's larceny section. "The guy's inside his house, he sees what's going on, and he can't do anything about it."

When Richardson's son returned home a short time later, he told him to call 911.

"We were on it within minutes," Hennessy said.

Richardson's son called someone he knows at Wichita Iron and Metal on South Merton, one of the city's scrap yards.

Police contacted other scrap yards around town and told them to be on the lookout for a wheelchair ramp.

Within half an hour, Richardson said, Wichita Iron and Metal called to report someone had sold them what was likely the ramp.

It had been taken apart, with non-metal parts discarded.

The ramp has an estimated value of $3,000, police said. The man who brought it to the scrap yard sold it for $7.20.

When he returned later in the day with more scrap metal, police were alerted. Officers arrested a 50-year-old man.

The ramp was returned to Richardson, but because some parts are now missing it may not function properly.

Because he served in the military, he said, the Veterans Administration will replace his wheelchair ramp.

But others may not be so lucky.

If elderly residents on fixed incomes get a ramp stolen, he said, "they can't replace that."

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