STOCKTON (CBS13) — A Stockton mom is so thankful after her son’s wheelchair was found, hours after it was stolen from their front porch.
“I’m just so happy that it’s just here and I have the wheelchair and he’s going to go to school,” Yanelli Rodriguez Ceja said as the wheelchair was returned to her Wednesday. “He doesn’t know we found the wheelchair, so I just can’t wait to show him!”
Stockton police arrested the man accused of stealing seven-year-old Antonio Ceja’s wheelchair from the front steps of his home. Ceja has cerebral palsy and relies on his green and black set of wheels to get around.
“His wheelchair is everything. He can’t go to lunch at school without his wheelchair, because that’s the way he moves,” his mother said.
He was forced to stay home from school Wednesday when police say 39-year-old Lonnie Franks grabbed the wheelchair and took off while Ceja’s mom was inside.
She then jumped in the car and looked all over town. Desperate to find her son’s wheelchair, she posted pictures to social media. Fortunately, members of the community saw the post and reported several sightings in various parts of the city.
“Once that photograph got blasted on social media we had so many people looking for that suspect and the wheelchair. You had the police department, multiple officers, community members,” Stockton police spokesperson Joe Silva said.
A person had shared the photo with police after spotting the wheelchair at Weber Point, but when officers arrived, the suspect was nowhere to be found.
Hours later, police say a woman recognized a man in the photo and called to report seeing the wheelchair on the north side of town. Officers responded to the area and arrested Franks.
BOY REUNITED WITH STOLEN WHEELCHAIR: This is the photo the Ceja family sent me after seven year old Antonio got his stolen wheelchair back! Great work #Stockton! Way to be diligent and provide this family a happy ending to a tragic situation! It was great to see all the teamwork! pic.twitter.com/ZnjR9TRyl3
— Linda Mumma (@LindaBMumma) October 31, 2019
Rodriguez Ceja says the wheelchair was a little banged up but can be repaired. Now Antonio can return to school, and his mother says she won’t be leaving the chair out anymore.
Police credit the community and the power of social media for providing the family with a positive ending to a tough situation. Franks, who is homeless, was arrested for felony possession of stolen property.