DETROIT (WJBK) – An 81-year-old Detroit man who once served in the United States Army died this week after trying to break up a fight. According to police, he was hit by a man driving a stolen car who then fled the scene.
Robert Ybarra's last words from his son, Rafael, were the three most important you can leave someone with: "I love you." But he never would he have imagined his father's life would end this way.
"We knew the time would come sooner or later, but we just never dreamed it would be like this. Never," Rafael said. "He always, always helped people."
That's exactly what he was trying to do on Sunday. Rafael says his father was going out for a coffee and a donut on Lafayette on Sunday, as usual. But that day, he tried to help 42-year-old Tywaun Coakley who was apparently involved in a fight.
He didn't know Coakley was in a stolen car and drunk. Rafael said that probably wouldn't have mattered.
"We understand he might've been trying to break up an altercation. If he knew the circumstances of what would happen to him, he still would've [done] it," he said.
Ybarra was hit and pinned against his own car by Coakley, police say. He had several broken bones and trauma to his head. It was all too much, and he died at a nearby hospital. Meanwhile, police say Coakley just left him there.
"He's always been tough, but, as the doctors saw no improvement, we started to come to grips that he wasn't going to pull through this time."
Ybarra was a fighter. The proud Army veteran met his wife in Germany in the late 1950s and was later honorably discharged – but he didn't come home unhurt.
"There was an explosion, and they had to surgically remove his helmet and his eye came with it," Rafael said.
Robert moved to Detroit and took a job with the post office. Rafael remembers his father's giving spirit and feels relief that the man accused of killing him is caught. He still wishes he could tell his father those three words, one more time.
"He knows we do. I really wish I could have one more moment like that with him, but I know he knows," Rafael said.
Coakley faces four charges including murder and is due back in court July 27 for his probable cause hearing. Ybarra's family says they'll be there to remind him of the man they took away from them.
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