When Christopher Allen Harris’ daughter was just five years old, she drew a picture of her father holding her in his arms. She included Harris’ prosthetic leg in the stick-figure drawing.
On Monday night, after the 49-year-old was struck by a car, his prosthetic leg was dislodged and stolen. But police found the limb Tuesday afternoon, after a tipster reached out. The prosthetic was found with some discarded items at a laundromat, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department. Officers returned it to Carrie Harris, his estranged wife, who advocated for the limb’s return.
Harris has had a prosthetic leg since he was three years old, a result of a birth defect. His most recent one was covered in one-of-a-kind Marvel artwork and valued at $15,000.
“Turn it in. You’re not going to get in trouble,” Carrie Harris had asked at a Tuesday press conference before the prosthetic was found. “Teach my child that people can do the right thing after they make a mistake.”
Carrie Harris did not disclose her 15-year-old daughter’s name, but said her daughter was devastated by the accident and the theft of her father’s leg.
The crash occurred about 10 p.m. Monday when Christopher Harris was walking north along 49th Street and crossing Fifth Avenue N in the crosswalk. He was hit by a westbound car driven by Joshua Albert Grimmer, 21, St. Petersburg police said.
He was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg in critical condition. Carrie Harris said Christopher had suffered major head trauma, spinal damage, a broken femur, broken hips and broken ribs. He’s currently intubated and they’re monitoring him over the coming days.
During the crash, his prosthetic leg dislodged and struck another vehicle traveling east on Fifth Avenue N, police said. While both drivers involved stopped and cooperated with the investigation, someone stole the leg from the scene, police said.
Carrie Harris said she thinks someone may have taken the leg in hopes that they could pawn it. But to Christopher Harris, the leg was priceless, she said. When they first met, he wore blue jeans and no one could see it. But when they moved to Florida, he began to wear shorts and show off his prosthetic. Kids would approach him and ask about it. And he would sometimes use it as a hammer or a tool to break firewood.
“If somebody told him he couldn’t do something because of his prosthetic, he did it anyway,” Carrie Harris said.
Christopher Harris was a “super nerd” who loved videos games and the multimedia pop culture gathering, Dragon Con. And he was also a funny and giving man, Carrie Harris said. She said she wasn’t sure how long he’d had the Marvel prosthetic, but that Christopher Harris’ previous prosthetic leg also had superheroes on it. They worked with a specific company that made customizable prosthetics with cartoon and superhero themes.
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“It was part of his colorful nature,” she said. “It was a conversation starter. And I hope that he can have conversations again, but we don’t know.”
An investigation into the crash is ongoing, though police said they don’t believe alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash.