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Army vet dies after stepping in to break up fight in Detroit

DETROIT – There’s no quick way to describe what 81-year-old veteran Robert Ybarra meant to his family and his Southwest Detroit neighborhood.

“Loving. He loved everyone,” said Ybarra’s daughter, Tanya Hensley. "He was one of those neighborhood dads that people could count on. If you needed groceries, he'd take you. He'd buy them."

Ybarra lost his eye in an Army training exercise in Germany in the early 60s. He returned to the U.S. with a bride, and they moved to Detroit in 1968.

On the day he arrived in the city, the Tigers were winning the World Series in St. Louis.

"People on Jefferson were jumping up and down-- even on his (taxi) cab-- and he was worried another riot was breaking out like the year before," said his son, Richard Ybarra. "The cab driver said, 'No, the Tigers won the Series.'"

From that point on, he was a faithful Tigers fan. 

“We always asked him why he stayed here. He said, ‘This is home,’” Ybarra’s son, Rafael Ybarra, said.

Detroit police said two men got into a fight Sunday morning at West Lafayette and 10 Street. Ybarra tried to break it up, but a 43-year-old man allegedly ran Ybarra over with his car, pinning him against his own car.

Ybarra suffered several broken bones and a head injury. He died after 24 hours. 

“That’s what he would do. I’ve seen him do it before, separate two people,” Rafael Ybarra said.

The family said they don’t want what happened to their father to happen to anyone else, but they don’t want it to deter people from stepping in.

"I want the person who did this to my dad to pay. But I also don't want it to be warning to not help people in trouble. My dad stopped and he helped someone but I don't want this to be something people say, 'Well, that's what happens when you help someone,’” Hensley said.

Yabba's family said he was a retired postal worker, and well known in the neighborhood - where he lived for more than 30 years. 

"He was doing cannonballs in the pool just last week," said his granddaughter, Mona Puentes. 

The 43-year-old suspect is being held, pending charges. 


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