DUNKIRK, N.Y. (WIVB) - Last October, loved ones of a disabled man contacted News 4, desperate for help to put an end to the relentless bullying the Dunkirk man suffered.
Now, six months later, Mikey Gonzalez rides his bicycle up and down the streets of Dunkirk with a huge, beaming smile. Mikey has Tourette syndrome, and it causes him to hit himself uncontrollably when he is disturbed.
News 4 learned Mikey was being bullied nearly every day, sometimes being followed across town by his tormenters who called him the "cat man" and taunted him from inside a car. The brazen bullies even posted their exploits to YouTube.
Reporter Lou Raguse tracked down the bullies and brought the situation to the attention of the police, who went on to arrest the two 19-year-old suspects and charge them with harassment.
"I'm just a happier person. You know? It takes the weight off my shoulders," Mikey said.
Mikey's brother, Sam Gonzalez, said, "Last summer he was afraid to go out every day. He'd take shortcuts to avoid people. But now he goes around saying hi to people. And people say hi to him."
Mikey's mom, Linda Gonzalez, added. "When I go out to the store, people say, 'I'm watching out for Mikey, and I tell him, "Hi."'"
The judge granted the two suspects youthful offender status, and Mikey's family wasn't allowed in the courtroom for the sentencing. But they later learned the both young men received three years of probation and 120 hours of community service.
Mikey's loved ones would have liked a harsher sentence. But they hope the community service is meaningful.
"I think the 120 hours community service should be done where Mikey works, the Resource Center, so they see people like Mikey, so they can better understand them," said Mikey's friend Amanda Mick, who initially contacted News 4 with Mikey's plight.
Before leaving Dunkirk, our News 4 crew was stopped by a Dunkirk resident who wanted to share the change she's seen.
"I think a lot more people are sticking up for him because they know his situation. And I just think it's great because he is so happy. And it makes me feel good, too," said Myrtle Bischoff.
A man who only wished to ride in peace has been given that chance.
Mikey's family also said he is getting professional help to prevent him from hitting himself when agitated. They say they've seen a big difference in the last couple months.
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