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Slain Good Samaritan Was Turning Life Around

CHICAGO (STMW) - Heroin addict Bobby Butler had vowed to turn his life around before. But this time -- at the ripe age of 55 -- it seemed finally to have stuck.

Just five months out of prison, where he had spent much of the last 20 years for a series of drug offenses, the fast-talking father of four was drug-free and church-going, proudly working as a telemarketer downtown and saving up to move into a new apartment with his mom.

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His days on the street were done, he had told family and friends.

But as he walked home from the Central Park L stop in Lawndale at 6 p.m. Monday, the street claimed him anyway.

Gunned down by a robber as he ran to the aid of a young woman whose purse had been snatched, Butler died not a criminal, but a hero.

"When he got out of prison we had a big long talk," his brother, Jeffrey Butler, said Tuesday as detectives hunted for the killer. "He regretted that he wasn't there when his other brother died of cancer, and he really wanted to make a difference -- but he'd have helped this woman even when he wasn't in his right frame of mind, before he got clean. It's just how he was."

Butler died of a gunshot wound in his chest during surgery Tuesday at Mount Sinai Hospital.

He had first offered to protect the woman from the rain with his umbrella as they both left the L station Monday night, a police source said.

Moments after she declined, a man in dark clothing showed her a handgun stuffed in his waistband and took her purse, telling her to "just hand it over," police said.

Butler had shouted "Hey, hey!" and started to move across the street toward the robber when he was shot in the 2100 block of South Millard, according to a police report.

"There was one shot, and as the shooter ran away down the alley he was lying in the middle of the street, saying, 'I can't feel my legs!' " said a witness who spoke with police but asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Butler's roommate, Arthur Railey, described him as a streetwise ladies' man who avoided conflict but couldn't bear to see a woman victimized.

When he and Butler got in an argument with a group of teenage gang-bangers who cut them off in their car on Sunday, Butler acted as peacemaker and warned Railey, "These kids will shoot you over anything."

Noting that Butler was fatally shot a day later, Railey said, "I think his pride would not let him watch someone treat a woman that way in front of him."

Butler had used his charm and hard work to win a series of "better and better" sales jobs since he was released from prison this summer, his brother said.

Butler's boss, David Gronowski, said his death stunned and saddened co-workers at Transnational Bankcard.

However, "It surprised none of us that he was trying to help someone when he died," Gronowski said.

Butler's optimistic personality and "gratefulness in life were an inspiration," he added.

Butler's niece, Tameka Herred, who had recently helped him set up a Facebook profile, said his hard life had not diminished his love of jokes and fun. "I've never seen anyone so happy to have a paycheck and be able to pay the rent," she said.

--Chicago Sun-Times, via the Sun-Times Media Wire

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