'Who would steal a wheelchair?': 96-year-old Holocaust survivor speaks out after NYC theft

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Police are looking for a thief who stole an electric wheelchair from a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor from outside a doctor's office on the Upper West Side.

Now, he is speaking out about the ordeal, which happened Tuesday morning as Eric Plan went to the office with his niece, Nina Klefin.

"My uncle said, 'We are just going to leave it here. I went to this office before and I always left it here outside. Don't worry," she said. "And then he said, 'Who is going to steal a wheelchair?'"

Plan survived the Holocaust, though he lost most of his family, so he has every bit of knowledge about how awful people can be. But even he was surprised someone took his $2,500 wheelchair.

"After two hours, when we were through with the doctor, the wheelchair was gone," he said.

Investigators say the person was caught on surveillance video riding away on the wheelchair from outside the office in the 200 block of West End Avenue.

"The wheelchair indicates that there is a handicapped person," he said. "If it is someone with limited funds, it would be even worse. That's what upset me the most."

Luckily, he said he can afford a new one if need be, but he's hoping police will track down the culprit. They're also hoping it was taken for good cause and not for no reason.

"Somebody was in need and they saw the wheelchair and they took it," Klefin said. "I hope it was for some granny or somebody."

UPDATE: Police have arrested 45-year-old Torie Branch in this case and charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

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