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Man's $50K prosthetic leg, truck stolen from Buena Park parking lot

June 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Juan Hernandez's life has been turned upside down since the theft of his prosthetic leg.

Hernandez tries to stay strong for his family, but admits it's not easy. The 53-year-old is now forced to use a wheelchair after someone stole his prosthetic leg.

"My life has stopped. It's like being crippled again," he said.

Hernandez, his wife and grandchildren spent the day at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park on May 26. When they returned to the parking lot, their 2007 Chevy Silverado was gone. In the backseat was his artificial leg. He was using a wheelchair while in the theme park.

"We were all panicking," said Hernandez's wife, Carmen. "We just worried about the leg. It was just the leg."

The prosthetic leg, valued at as much as $50,000, custom fitted to Hernandez. It was a gift last year after his story aired on "America's Most Wanted." The Santa Ana resident was nearly killed Thanksgiving 2010 when he tried to intervene in a fight as his sons tried to stop taggers in their neighborhood.

Police allege Jose Berruette, a 24-year-old gang member, got into his Ford Bronco and ran over Hernandez.

"He had no remorse after he ran over our victim. He got stuck on the wall. He kept driving back and forth, back and forth. Our victim was extremely lucky to be alive," said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna with the Santa Ana Police Department.

Police continue to search for Berruette. Investigators suspect he may also go by the name Luis Avila. He may travel between Mexicali and Orange County and may be slimmer than what he looks like in photos released by authorities.

"I've tried to move on with my life. I can't think about that one day, because it puts me back, it depresses me," said Hernandez.

Hernandez, a former Marine, said he was getting his life back and had started going to the gym and was able to help out with everyday chores.

"With my leg, I felt like I was almost 100 percent," said Hernandez. "Whoever did it, please have a heart."

His wife said they just want his prosthetic leg back, no questions asked.

"He needs his leg. We wouldn't say anything. Just return it," said Carmen Hernandez.

Anyone with information was asked to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) TIP-OCCS.

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