Fargo police say brutal attack that killed man appears to have been random
FARGO - The early Sunday attack on a 47-year-old Fargo man "appears to have been a random chance encounter," Fargo Police Lt. Pat Claus said today.
Authorities are still investigating what led to Ronald Hammersmith's death, but released new details this afternoon at a press conference.
Hammersmith was attacked early Sunday morning while walking home from downtown Fargo.
His family took him off life support at 10:30 p.m. Monday, according to a family statement. Police were notified of Hammersmith's death about 6 a.m., Sgt. Mark Lykken said.
"Hammersmith was an organ donor whose heart, liver, pancreas and kidneys were donated to waiting recipients," according to a family statement released today. "Ron always gave to others. By giving the gift of organ donation, his legacy lives on."
Authorities have interviewed a 20-year-old Fargo man who is a suspect in the case, but he is not in custody, Claus said, adding the suspect has been cooperative.
"At the present time there is no risk to public safety," Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said, adding police have no reason to believe the suspect poses a threat.
Claus said it does not appear a weapon was used in the assault, and authorities are investigating whether Hammersmith's wallet, cash inside the wallet and cell phone were stolen during the incident around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
Hammersmith suffered injuries to his head by being struck, falling to the ground or a combination of the two, Claus said.
An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday in Bismarck.
Claus, head of the department's Investigative Division, added that police have a large crime scene to go through, additional interviews to conduct and a lot of evidence to process.
The criminal investigation into Hammersmith's death is the first Fargo police have conducted in two years. The last investigation involved the August 2007 stabbing of David Delonais that resulted in the murder conviction of Elijah Addai of Fargo.
Police dispatch reports indicate Hammersmith was mugged and bleeding seriously from the head.
Police were called at 2:43 a.m. to Hammersmith's home at 1003 9th Ave. S. after Hammersmith walked home and called a friend, who called police.
The friend told dispatchers Hammersmith said he was walking and was asked his name, and when he answered he was hit in the head and his wallet was stolen.
Hammersmith told police he was walking between the 200 and 400 blocks of 10th Street South when he was assaulted, Sgt. Ross Renner said.
Tracy Quimby, Hammersmith's neighbor, said she saw him sitting on the grass in front of the apartment complex talking to police as paramedics bandaged his head.
Hammersmith was taken to Fargo's MeritCare Hospital for treatment. MeritCare officials contacted police about 3:20 p.m. Sunday to inform them Hammersmith's condition had deteriorated.
Renner would not comment Monday on the types of charges authorities are seeking, saying that the Cass County State's Attorney's Office would make that determination once the investigation is forwarded to the office.
"Certainly, any time we have someone that passes away as a result of a violent act, you have charges that can stem anywhere from simple assault all the way up to a homicide," he said.
Quimby, 21, was upset when given the news Monday night that Hammersmith is not expected to live, saying he is a quiet neighbor she often says hello to and one who has always been polite.
"He keeps to himself," Quimby said. "He doesn't bother anybody."
Quimby said she and her boyfriend often walk along 10th Street when returning from downtown, saying she has never had any problems.
"It's usually safe, but now I don't know," she said.