Lawrenceburg police pitch in to replace autistic boy’s stolen bike
By Ben Carlson
Gunner Howard could do nothing but walk around the carport at his family’s home.
Unable to speak due to autism, the 17-year-old was clearly upset but couldn’t tell his mother why.
“He kept trying to tell me but he couldn’t say it,” said his mom, Charity Wilkerson. “I noticed it [last] Wednesday. He was walking back and forth under the carport. Then he took my hand and started walking around with me and I realized what it was — his bike was gone.”
Thinking Gunner’s dad had moved it, she called him and was told that wasn’t the case. It was then Wilkerson son realized the unthinkable: someone had stolen her autistic son’s bike.
“He loved that bike,” his mom said. “He’d had it for less than a month.”
Wilkerson called the Lawrenceburg Police Department to report it stolen, and officers David Goodlett and Marc Hall visited the home to take a report.
“The chances of finding that bike were slim to none,” said Goodlett. “So, we talked among ourselves and decided to do something about it.”
That something was Goodlett and Hall, with a couple of Walmart employees chipping in, using their own money to replace the young man’s bike, including a larger seat and even a lock to keep it from being stolen.
Wilkerson said she couldn’t believe it when they realized what the officers had done.
“We were at the grocery store when they called, asking where we were because they had Gunner’s bike,” said Wilkerson, not knowing until she got home that it was a new bike and exactly like the one that had been stolen.
“We were all in tears,” she said, choking up at the memory. “Even the cops were in tears. “Gunner was so excited, he was rocking back and forth, which is what he does when he’s happy. He was more excited than he would have been had we just replaced it because it came from the police.”
Wilkerson said she planned to replace the bike.
“I wasn’t expecting anything,” she said. “I told them I was going to buy him a bike but they immediately went and bought one for him.
“I honestly cried because that was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. With what’s going on in the world right now, it shows there is still good in this world.”
Wilkerson said Gunner loved to ride bikes when he was younger but in recent years hadn’t been very active. She said when his sisters got bikes, that rekindled his interest.
“We went to Walmart and picked up the most expensive bike they had, but I didn’t care because he was so excited and was riding every day until it was stolen.”
Wilkerson moved to Lawrenceburg from Tennessee about a year ago to be closer to family, and said last week’s expression of generosity from the police reinforces how she feels about the city.
“I love it up here,” she said. “Ever since I’ve been here, it has felt like home. Honestly, I like it better than my hometown. I’m speechless. It’s such a warm feeling to know that people care.”
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