KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Thieves steal from a Kansas City, Kansas man who is living with disabilities, taking the truck specially equipped for him to drive and that’s not even the worst part of the story.
The truck was found in a back parking lot of a group of townhomes near Central Avenue and 13th Street in KCK. It was parked about seven miles from where it was stolen.
Neighbors called the fire department because flames shooting out of the truck were so big.
“Headlights had melted off of it,” owner Elijah Rowden said. “It’s never going to be drivable again.”
It was stolen Saturday night outside Rowden’s home in KCK. Police said they found it the next morning on fire.
“It’s just saddening,” Rowden said.
The tires were popped, glass shattered, and the inside was completely charred.
It’s a frustrating situation for anyone, but a loss of freedom especially for Rowden.
He’s dealt with a rare spine condition since birth and uses a wheelchair.
“I had handicap plates on it. I had hand controls in it. I mean, there was a visible rope going from the mirror to the door so I could close it,” Rowden said. “Everything in this car just screamed that this was for a disabled person, and they just still stole my car.”
Rowden doesn’t know how he’s going to pay for a new car that works for him.
“It’s their freedom and independence,” Keith Carlson said. “It’s their lifeline, it’s everything to them.”
Carlson is the general manager at United Access in Lenexa. They sell wheelchair accessible vehicles and equipment.
He said in general, these vans can run from $30,000 – $80,000.
Hand controls can range from a couple thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
“If you or I have a vehicle issue we can hop into another person’s vehicle, if they have a vehicle issue, they’re kind of stuck,” Carlson said. “They have to have this vehicle in order to get to their job, to get to school, whatever it is that they’re doing.”
Rowden admits the truck didn’t have the bells and whistles, like Carlson’s van. He did the modifications himself. But it got him to the grocery store and held sentimental value.
It was a gift from his dad after graduation and has been in the family for years.
“I don’t know, I’m… I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Rowden said.
He also said they found an unknown phone inside the truck.
He hopes that helps police catch the criminals who stole his truck and wants them to understand how much damage it can do to a person’s life.
KCK Police said they and the fire team are investigating the crime. If you would like to help Rowden, visit his GoFundMe page here.