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Mean Streets

No arrest in hit-and-run of homeless man.



Memphian Greg Graber recently received an alarming phone call: The brother he hadn't seen in two decades had been hit by a car and was on life support at the MED.

On October 29th, an out-of-control Ford Expedition barreled into Eric Graber and another homeless man standing in front of the Express Deli & Grocery at Jefferson and Claybrook. Graber was seriously injured, but no one has been charged in the incident.

"I don't know why no one has been taken into custody or arrested," Greg Graber says. "I feel that because Eric is homeless nothing is really being done about it, and I think that's indicative of the way our society treats homeless people."

Nearly all of Eric Graber's bones were broken in the accident. Currently, he is still in critical condition and on a ventilator, unable to speak.

Memphis Police Department information officer Monique Martin says the hit-and-run is still under investigation, because they have not been able to positively identify the Expedition's driver.

Witnesses reported there were two men in the vehicle and that both fled the scene on foot before authorities arrived. When police showed up, Curtis Owens, the owner of the vehicle, appeared on the scene, claiming that he had been carjacked at a Kroger on Frayser Boulevard.

Owens was taken into custody and charged with false reporting. He was released on $40,000 bond.

Despite the perplexities of the case, Greg Graber and other homeless advocates feel that the situation would be different had the victim been middle-class.

Kathleen Kruczek is the co-director of the Manna House on Jefferson, a hospitality center for the homeless and people in need.

"There are other stories from people from the streets who have been the victims of severe crimes, and those crimes tend to go unpunished," Kruczek says.

Kruczek says a few months ago, a car struck another homeless man she knows. He called 911 to report the incident, and police came and arrested him for making an unnecessary 911 call. The charge didn't stick, but police took him in for not having identification.

"By calling 911 and saying, 'Look, the guy who ran me down is right here, please come and get him,' [police] came and said, 'You've been drinking and you don't have an ID, so we're taking you down,'" Kruczek says. "There's an awful lot of criminalization of victims if the victims are poor, particularly if they are homeless."

The MPD's Martin says this case is being handled like any hit-and-run case.

"There's always concern from the victim's family about how the investigations are handled by police, but we do not segregate our reports based on anyone's disposition or characteristic, whether they are homeless or not," Martin says.

First Tennessee Bank has established an Eric Graber Fund to help with medical expenses. Donations can be made at any local bank branch.

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