DETROIT (WXYZ) - Witnesses are telling 7 Action News that two men well known to Tigers fans have been killed in a hit and run.
The men were James Van Horn, who was known for his distinctive shouting of 'Eat 'em up Tigers' , and another man known as Dreadlock Mike.
"I saw the two guys laying there," said witness Ken Blaznek, who says he knew immediately who was struck, when he saw parts of the wheelchair on the street. He knew it was Dreadlock Mike's wheelchair.
"He's easily recognizable, the guy with the dreads and the wheelchair with no feet." said Blaznek, "And the other guy, I didn't realize it was the 'Eat 'em up, Tigers' guy until I talked to police afterwards."
Witnesses tell 7 Action News they heard a crash at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning in the area of Gratiot and Russell, about a mile from Comerica Park. They say it appears Van Horn was pushing Dreadlock Mike down the street when they were hit by a vehicle that left the scene.
When witnesses got to the scene, they saw the two men laying in the street at the intersection. They say they were able to identify Van Horn by his distinctive 'Hulk hand' that was lying in the street.
"He will always be remembered as the 'Eat 'em up' guy." said Mike Riley, who befriended Van Horn at Comerica Park, like so many Tigers fans. Van Horn was the effervescent panhandler who shouted the catchphrase with enthusiastic energy. Riley even printed and sold Eat 'Em Up t-shirts with the profits going to help Van Horn.
"Every time we walked away from him, he told Mike that he loved him," said Riley's wife Jennifer Riley, "And I know it was true."
Witnesses say Dreadlock Mike's wheelchair was near the men and that it was hit by a second vehicle, which also left the scene.
“They’re the character of the Eastern Market in our Detroit area." said Richard Crabb, owner of Busy Bee Hardware near the crash site, "And it’s so unfortunate, but things like this aren’t unusual in a way because when you live on the streets and hang in the streets, terrible things can happen to you.”
“You’d see him out here every day." said panhandler Stephen Detzlar describing Dreadlock Mike, "There was no shame in his game. He was who he was.”
Both men leave behind struggles and hardships, but it is clear they also leave legacies that traveled beyond the very streets that ended their lives.
“Tough life and even tougher death for these guys." said Blaznek, "They don’t deserve that.”
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