BRANDON, Fla. -- The custom-made wheelchair of a six-year-old boy with autism was returned to him, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.
The person who took it thought it was scrap, the sheriff's office said.
"He collected the wheelchair with the intention of cleaning it and then donating it to Metropolitan Ministries or All Children Hospital," the department said. "The man collects used medical equipment which he reconditions, and then donates it appropriately."
Andrew Dennis placed his son's wheelchair next to the driveway -- something he's done every day for the past couple of years -- to alert the bus driver about the child going to school.
When the bus pulls up, the child is placed into the chair and loaded onto the bus. The chair is custom-made for the child as he has special needs.
But between the time the chair was set out on Monday to when the bus came by some 10 minutes later, someone took the chair and the book bag that was with it, the father says.
The chair is a TiLite wheelchair with blue aluminum pieces and a custom headset. It's worth about $10,000.
The man, who investigators did not identify because he has yet to be charged with a crime, thought the chair was trash, being that it was placed on the curb in a way consistent with county refuse collection procedures.
"Upon learning of the reported loss, he immediately contacted and notified the victim he was in possession of the property and immediately returned it in the same condition," the sheriff's office said. "He apologized profusely and admitted he erred in judgment by not speaking to the homeowner, but did not believe it to be of value due to it being placed beside the roadway. The man advised he learned of the theft from the news and immediately notified the victim and returned the property thereafter.
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