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Police say Fargo man dead after brutal attack

A 47-year-old Fargo man attacked early Sunday morning while walking home from downtown Fargo has died, Sgt. Mark Lykken said this morning.

Police were notified of Ronald Lee Hammersmith's death about 6 a.m., he said.

A press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m., in which police will release more details about the assault, Lykken said.

A news release issued stated Hammersmith died early today.

On Monday, Sgt. Ross Renner said authorities have identified a male suspect in his 20s and have contacted him, but he is not in custody or under arrest at this time, Renner said.

He declined to say whether the man had been interviewed by police, saying that authorities believe the incident was isolated and the public is not at risk.

Renner would not comment on where Hammersmith was injured, whether a weapon was used, whether he knew the suspect or whether he was mugged.

Police dispatch reports indicate the man was mugged and was bleeding seriously from the head.

Police were called to Hammersmith's home at 1003 9th Ave. S. at 2:43 a.m. 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, 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.

"Doctors in this case do not expect the victim to survive," Renner said, adding the investigation ramped up at that point and continued throughout the night. Authorities were able to quickly identify a suspect at that point.

Family members "seem to be coping" with the incident, he said.

"The family obviously is traumatized in relation to this incident, as most people would be," Renner said.

The family has asked hospital officials not to release a condition report on Hammersmith, a MeritCare official said.

Renner would not comment 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.