DOWNEY - An autistic Downey woman with the mental capacity of a 9-year-old was devastated when her bicycle was stolen from a local mall.But luckily the story has a happy ending thanks to generous Downey police officers. Kayla Bailey is 21 but cannot drive due to autism. She received a custom pink and white Schwinn bicycle on Christmas that she used as her primary means of transportation. "It was like a baby to me," Kayla said. "It was my baby. I'd go everywhere with it. To see my friends, to the doctor's..." Kayla rode the bike to Stonewood Center on Monday afternoon, hoping to buy related Valentine's Day gifts for family members. She parked it outside Buffalo Wild Wings and secured it with a combination lock. When she returned about an hour later, the bicycle was gone. Stonewood security took Kayla around the property in search of the bike but it was no use. "I was mad and sad and worried," Kayla said. Kayla had customized the bicycle with a bell and basket. It still had its red Christmas ribbon attached. The bicycle was reported stolen to Downey but even with a serial number, there was not much hope the bike would be recovered. The theft left Kayla stranded at home without a way of getting around. There's an old bicycle in the garage she said, but "It's my dad's and it's from the '70s." The Downey Patriot featured Kayla's story online Tuesday. By Wednesday morning it caught the attention of Sgt. Scott Loughner of the Downey Police Department. After consulting with Cpl. Mike Pope, the Downey Police Officers Association agreed to purchase Kayla a new bicycle. "She's such a sweetheart," Loughner said. "We knew immediately that we wanted to do this for her." Kayla met Pope and Loughner at Russell's Bike Shop on Wednesday afternoon. She was given a bright pink cruiser adorned with Hello Kitty decals. Offices also bought her a new heavy-duty lock. "I love it," Kayla said of her new bike. "It's perfect and it's mine." Kayla also had strong words for any would-be thieves eyeing her new bike. "Don't steal it. It's the wrong thing to do," she said. "I'm the owner. Don't take my bike."
********** Published: February 21, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 45