Clearwater family needs handicap accessible van

Posted at 9:00 PM, May 23, 2016

Three teens are accused of stealing and totaling a handicap accessible van, leaving a Clearwater family with no other way to get around with their 6-year-old son who has cerebral palsy.

John and Amber Griffith feel betrayed and shocked. They can’t believe their daughter’s so-called friends would allegedly steal their van.
“It makes me angry, but most of all it hurts,” Amber Griffith said.

"There’s no morals with how they can take a van, let alone a handicap van, knowing our son is in a wheelchair.” John Griffith said.

It’s the only way they can drive around their 6-year-old son with cerebral palsy who can’t walk.

“They obviously have no heart,” Amber said.

It happened early Friday morning. John said he knew something was odd when he walked outside, didn’t see the van, but the keys and everyone were still inside the house.

“I walked outside and said, 'Where’s the van,'” he said.

They immediately called 911 and learned soon after the teens were caught after crashing it in St. Pete.

According to the arrest report one of the teens was found hiding in a Porta Potty. It also states a 16-year-old bought the van from an unknown male for $20, knowing the van was stolen, and then used the van to commit other burglaries. They’re all charged with auto theft.  

The van was taken from the Griffith’s driveway. The Griffiths say they thought they lost their extra van keys months ago but now realize they were taken. “It was a terrible feeling knowing someone stole our van and then once we found out it was a kid that had actually been in our house, it made it worse,” John said.

John is an active member of the Coast Guard.

We can’t name the teens or show their faces because of their ages. A Snap Chat video sent to ABC Action News shows one of the teens smashing the van with wrench.

“We were told there were a couple hit-and-runs and possible drug activity involved with this,” John said.

The Griffiths were without a van all weekend but thankfully the company they bought the van from is allowing them to use a courtesy vehicle until they can figure out how they can get another one.

“I hope they get punished to the fullest,” Amber said. Police may be looking for a fourth teenager in connection to the auto theft as well.

If you’d like to help the Griffith family email