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Palisades Park Man Charged In Theft Of Disabled Leonia Teen's Wheelchair

Michael Peralta
Michael Peralta Photo Credit: MUGSHOT: Courtesy LEONIA PD
Courtney, 14 of Leonia, has been reunited with his wheelchair.
Courtney, 14 of Leonia, has been reunited with his wheelchair. Photo Credit: Leonia PD

LEONIA, N.J. — Police charged a Palisades Park man with stealing a disabled Leonia teen's motorized wheelchair, thanks to an alert patrolman.

Michael L. Peralta, 18, rode the $12,000 chair away from his family's Broad Avenue apartment complex on Thursday, Leonia Police Chief Thomas Rowe said.

Peralta remained held on $25,000 bail Saturday in the Bergen County Jail, charged with theft and unlawful taking. A second suspect remained at large, the chief said.

Officer Sihoon Chung was on patrol when he spotted the wheelchair's headrest -- tucked behind garbage pails and a bicycle -- from the street, Rowe said.

Moments later, Peralta came walking out, he said.

Peralta "admitted...that he had stolen the wheelchair on the previous day" and was arrested, the chief said.

Police were then able to return the chair to a 14-year-old borough boy named Courtney, who has cerebral palsy and depends on it to get around.

"Courtney's mom and dad are extremely thankful for the outpouring of support and love they received during their trying time by members of the Leonia community and from people throughout the entire country," Rowe said.

"Since this morning, I have received numerous emails and calls from as far away as California from people willing to donate money, wheelchairs and anything Courtney may need," the chief said.

A GoFundMe page established for Courtney had raised more than $17,000 toward a $20,000 goal as of Saturday evening.

A medical supply company offered to give Courtney a new chair with more and better features.

The donations will go to "any cost associated" with a new chair -- with more and better features -- that a medical supply company offered to give Courtney, the GoFundMe page says.

The money will also go toward "modifications for [the famly] van and home to accommodate the new chair, and any other additional equipment to make their lives easier," it says says. "And boy do they deserve it after what they have been through."

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