Zachary Taylor, who died when he darted in front of a vehicle in Minneapolis, had struggled with addictions.
A homeless man struck and killed by a car after trying to escape an armed robber in south Minneapolis early Thursday morning was no saint, his friends on the street say. But it doesn't take away from the tragedy of a gifted and gentle friend who sang and danced, quoted the Bible and Qur'an, and left a hole in the hearts of all who knew him.
Zachary Taylor, 47, and a friend, Amanda Wandersee, 23, were standing near E. 24th Street and Portland Avenue S. about 3:15 a.m. when a man approached and started a conversation. The man then pulled out a knife and tried to rob the two. Taylor ran into the street and was hit.
The driver of the vehicle is cooperating with police and is not expected to be charged, Sgt. William Palmer said.
The robber fled on foot and is still at large. Police have no information about the suspect and are treating the case as a homicide.
Taylor's criminal record, replete with two felony convictions, and the way he lived life on the streets of Minneapolis were evidence enough of his lengthy struggle with drug addiction.
But he will be remembered as a friend to the regulars who gathered at Peace House, 510 E. Franklin Av., for a meal and a prayer Thursday. They broke down in sobs after learning of Taylor's death.
Lucy Smith had seen Taylor around for years. They first spoke last month when he gently chastised her for using a racial slur.
"Zach just looked at me for the longest time and asked why I said that. I didn't mean nothing by it, but he said the world just uses that word too, too freely," she said. "He was so smart, so funny. On the street you have associates, but after you met Zach, you just knew he was your friend."
Taylor came to Minneapolis from Chicago, where he frequently returned, including during an 18-month stint with sobriety. He was human, his friends say, but still took care to look out for everyone.
Michael Wilkins knew Taylor for 16 years. They last spoke the day before he died. "He said 'I've got to get myself together and get off the streets,' and I said 'You know what you've got to do,'" Wilkins said.
It remains unclear what Taylor was doing on the corner before the robbery. It doesn't matter, said Noreen Feeney.
"He was struggling, but he was a strong-minded person and he believed what he believed," she said. "He had a lot of friends on the street. And people on the street are not bad people. They just have an addiction."
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768 Abby Simons • 612-673-4921