GR man fights off woman’s attacker during Meijer candy run

Ty Zerby of Grand Rapids
Ty Zerby of Grand Rapids recounts his fight with a stabbing suspect outside the Meijer in Walker. (March 28, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A father of three on a gummy bear run for his family had no idea he would soon fight off an attacker outside the Walker Meijer.

Ty Zerby of Grand Rapids was visiting the Alpine Avenue store around 8 p.m. on March 9 to pick up treats for his wife and children.

Police say that night, 20-year-old Victor Gonzales followed a woman out of the store, bound her hands with duct tape and string, and was stabbing her in the arm, thigh and chest.

Surveillance images show a person of interest in a stabbing outside the Walker Meijer on March 9, 2017. (Walker Police Department)

“I heard a lady yelling, screaming, like death-curdling screams,” Zerby told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.

That’s when he went to see what was wrong.

“It looked like the guy was punching her. I didn’t realize what was going on,” he said. “It was a scary deal, just so scary, man.”

The 38-year-old father tried to pull the attacker off of the woman. As Zerby fought the stabber, a roll of duct tape fell onto the ground.

“That’s when I realized she was saying ‘He’s stabbing me,’” Zerby said.

They struggled and Zerby was hit in the mouth with a hammer, cracking a couple of teeth. Zerby said he grabbed onto the suspect’s coat, but he managed to squirm out of the garment and run.

Zerby chased after him.

“Maybe 75 yards, I realized I couldn’t catch him. This guy was so fast,” Zerby recounted.

Meijer, Alpine Avenue
The parking lot of the Meijer on Alpine Avenue in Walker. (March 28, 2017)

Zerby went back to help the bleeding woman. He used his key chain lanyard as a tourniquet on her leg and he held it until paramedics arrived.

“You know, somebody in need like that, you can’t just turn your back on them,” he said. “I’m trying to be a good dad and I just want my sons to be proud of me and I think that’s all it boiled down to.”

The victim is expected to be OK. The man who saved her says he hopes they can meet someday under better circumstances.

Zerby believes in a similar situation, most people would have acted the same.

“I feel like God said, ‘you could help’ and I’ve been helped so much, man. I’ve been helped so much in my life,” he added.

His 9-year-old son is why Zerby says he’d it all over again.

“My dad’s a very good hero, he could save lives,” third-grader Brennan Zerby said with tears welling in his eyes. “I’m pretty proud, I’m pretty proud to be his son, pretty proud.”

Tuesday, Zerby had this message to the attacker:

“I pray you get the help you need (so) that maybe you could turn your life around and help somebody instead of hurt them.”

That suspect rolled into Walker District Court Tuesday in a wheelchair.

Victor Gonzalez
Victor Gonzales’ mug shot from the Kent County Correctional Facility. (March 2017)

Gonzales was shot in the stomach by police five days after the Meijer assault as he tried to escape out the back of One Bourbon Bar & Restaurant at 608 Bridge Street NW. He underwent surgery at a hospital, but is now in the Kent County jail on a $750,000 bond.

Gonzales faces four criminal counts in the case, including assault with intent to do great bodily harm, assault with a dangerous weapon, unlawful imprisonment, and carjacking. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.