College student's wheelchair stolen from campus - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

WEDNESDAY, October 14, 2009

College student's wheelchair stolen from campus

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A disabled college student is having trouble getting around campus, after someone stole his motorized wheelchair. He emailed the News 8 CrimeFighters asking for help tracking down the thieves responsible for this unthinkable crime.

Twenty-seven-year-old Horus Ocampo is moving around Palomar College a bit slower these days, using a scooter. Earlier this month, thieves stole his motorized wheelchair from campus.

Horus had locked it up and left it charging overnight. When he returned to campus, it was gone - all that was left was the charger.

"I'm having a hard time going to my classes because this [scooter] is really slow, and I'm having a hard time turning it around," Horus said.

Horus has cerebral palsy. His friends are helping him get around campus, but it's not easy. His stolen wheelchair had a custom joystick that allowed Horus to maneuver with one hand. The scooter requires two hands to steer.

"He's frustrated. He can't maneuver as he used to in his other chair and that's affecting him I think. It would be nice to get him back into the chair he had before," Palomar College faculty member Henry Lesperance said.

Horus' wheelchair cost about $5,000 and that means whoever stole it faces grand theft charges.

"It's really difficult for me to replace it. To replace it, it would take me like a year," Horus said.

The Palomar College campus in San Marcos has a population of more than 30,000 students and faculty. Campus police report 23 thefts and 19 car break-ins over the past three months.

"People just don't secure their vehicles, and in some cases we have intruders from outside that do go into cars and steal purses, iPods, cell phones," Palomar College Police Chief Anthony Cruz said.

Of course, the theft of a wheelchair is a particularly cruel crime. College administrators are planning a fundraiser to try and help Horus purchase a replacement.

"We feel really bad for the situation that he's in and we'd like to make sure that he has a way to get around campus," Palomar College Counseling Dean Lynda Halttunen said.

Horus has just one message to the thieves who took his wheelchair.

"Please return the chair, because I really need it," he said.

The president of Palomar College is hoping to hold the fundraiser at his own home to benefit Horus.  The public can donate to the fundraising efforts by contacting the Palomar College Foundation.

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