Authorities seek stolen artificial leg

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Orange County authorities are looking for a crook who drove away with a man’s $60,000 artificial limb.

Juan Hernandez, 53, of Santa Ana, left the prosthetic, valued at $30,000 to $60,000, in his pickup truck in favor of a wheelchair when he and his family visited Knott’s Berry Farm last month.

When the family returned to the parking lot at about 10 p.m. on May 26, they realized that someone had stolen his black 2007 Chevy Silverado with the leg inside it.

“I thought he was going to have a heart attack,” Hernandez’s wife, Carmen, told the Orange County Register.

Hernandez lost his leg above the knee in November 2010 when a suspected graffiti member struck him with a Ford Bronco after a confrontation across the street from his Santa Ana home, police said. Hernandez was pushed through a 5-foot-high wall of cinderblocks and wrought iron and pinned under the car until it backed out.

Police investigating the attack have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Jose Berruette, 24, who’s believed to have fled to Mexico.

The attack was featured on an episode of the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” and the producers got a prosthetics maker to donate the custom leg to Hernandez, police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told City News Service.

Hernandez said his artificial leg had a computer-controlled knee that allowed him to take walks and go to the gym.

“That was the perfect leg,” Hernandez told the Register on Thursday as he watched his grandchildren from a wheelchair. “I’ve had it a little over a year, and I was able to walk on it.”

“I have my wheelchair and crutches, but I’d rather be walking,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez expected to receive a new leg but was unsure whether it will be as sophisticated as the stolen limb.

Hernandez said he regretted not leaving the leg at home the day it was stolen.

“Only God knows why these things are happening, but at least I’m still alive and I have my family backing me up,” Hernandez said.

“They don’t let me get depressed,” he said. “Sometimes I look down and I see no leg and I think it could be worse. That night I could have died and it didn’t happen.”

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