FARGO — A police officer is killed in a standoff. A man stabs a friend 77 times before beating a stranger to death with a hammer. Another man fatally shoots his cousin in a fit of paranoia.
And now, Fargo police are investigating the fatal shooting of a food truck owner.
These violent, high-profile cases all happened in or near the Horace Mann neighborhood, which sits along the Red River just north of downtown Fargo. Most recently, Jason "Jay" Allen Halvorson, 38, of Fargo, was gunned down about 1 a.m. Friday, June 7, near his Texas Q BBQ food truck in the parking lot of the former Sahr's Sudden Service station, 601 4th St. N., according to city police.
Despite the recent shooting and other violent crimes that Horace Mann has experienced in the past five years, residents and neighborhood leaders say they feel safe.
“The Horace Mann neighborhood actually does not have a very high crime rate compared to a lot of the other neighborhoods across town,” Fargo Police Lt. George Vinson said. “For a crime of violence really to happen in the Horace Mann neighborhood outside of a domestic assault is pretty abnormal.”
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The Sahr’s lot is technically in downtown Fargo, just a block west of the Horace Mann neighborhood. One of the most notable crimes that happened at Sahr’s was in June 2015, when Eric Lee Webb, then 30, shot at officers after robbing a nearby hotel. Police fired back and injured Webb.
In the Horace Mann neighborhood, then 24-year-old Christopher Hampton shot his cousin, Randall Doehner, 28, to death in June 2014 at 111 7th Ave. N. He told authorities he was paranoid that his cousin would kill him first.
A year later, Ashley Hunter, then 36, stabbed his friend, 45-year-old Clarence Flowers, to death 77 times in June 2015 at 319 12th Ave. N. before fatally beating 25-year-old Sam Traut with a hammer at 1122 12th St. N.
Marcus Schumacher, 49, fatally shot 33-year-old Fargo Police Officer Jason Moszer during a standoff in February 2016 at 308 9th Ave. N. before killing himself.
These violent crimes give residents pause, said Joshua Boschee, a state representative who lives in Horace Mann.
He believes some of the nightlife in downtown spills over into the neighborhood in the late hours. But he said the neighborhood has seen positive change in redeveloping itself, and most people feel safe.
The Police Department does the best it can to patrol the downtown and Horace Mann areas, Vinson said. He noted that police often are called to the Sahr’s intersection, mostly because of Steve’s Package Store.
A public records request by The Forum revealed that the liquor store has accumulated 194 police calls in the last five years, including reports of suspicious people, intoxicated individuals, assaults and disturbances. Police responded to the Sahr’s lot 11 times in the same time period for similar reasons, records show.
Steve’s Package Store is one of the few off-sale stores in the downtown area, and it may see more calls there because intoxicated people may stop there to buy alcohol, Vinson said.
Steve’s was closed Friday morning when Halvorson was killed. Management declined to comment on the shooting, and The Forum was unable to reach the owner for this story.
Plans for vacant lot
Not all neighborhood residents feel safe.
Tim Dahl, who was fixing up his home Monday, June 10, on Sixth Avenue North near Sahr’s where his family has lived for close to 30 years, said the neighborhood frequently sees police and ambulances.
“I don’t let my grandkids play out here unless I’m out here with them,” he said.
Last week a guy was badly beaten by their house, and Dahl’s wife called for an ambulance, he said. He recently came home to an intoxicated man sitting on his front steps.
“I don’t like to see it around my house and my family,” he said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Dahl said it would be good to have beat cops walking around and noted the alley directly beside his home is without lighting. As for the Sahr’s lot, he said there have been plans for years to revitalize it, but nothing has changed.
“Why not take care of it? Get it developed and get people you want in here,” he said, adding that it would be nice to see more homeowners in the area to care for their property like he does.
The Sahr's lot is owned by the Kilbourne Group, which plans to begin a development project there next year, company spokeswoman Adrienne Olson wrote in an email. It’s unclear what would be built there, possibly housing or business space.
“We’ve developed a few development scenarios that we’ve had the opportunity to share with neighbors in the past couple years,” she wrote. “We’ve been working toward a project that would fit the neighborhood and be welcomed by the neighbors.”
Olson said Friday's shooting does not affect the timeline of the project.
Halvorson was well-known by the Kilbourne Group, and his death shocked and saddened many in the community, she said.
“He brought food and friendship to some of our team events, and brought seriously good BBQ to the downtown lunch scene,” she said. “He often contacted us with ideas for improving the neighborhood and supporting others when he saw someone in need.”
'Eyes on the street'
Blighted or abandoned properties like the Sahr's lot tend to attract people who don’t want to be in populated areas, said Paul Gleye, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and a North Dakota State University architecture professor who specializes in urban development.
Gleye said one of his organization's main concerns when it comes to safety is the issue of inebriated people. He suggested bars should focus on not over-serving patrons.
John Feragen, who lives on Ninth Avenue North and Fourth Street, said he chalks up the crime in the neighborhood to “big city problems” associated with population growth.
“Things are just happening,” he said during an afternoon walk. “If you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.”
Dahl said he has no plans of moving, adding that the high-profile cases are few and far between.
Crime can happen anywhere, Olson said.
“A block full of activity and people tends to be safer than a vacant one,” she said. “More eyes on the street helps create a safer environment. It is our goal to create spaces and places that are comfortable and inviting for all ages.”
When asked if Friday's shooting could have been prevented if the Sahr’s lot was developed, Olson said, “Crime does not discern between developed and undeveloped.”
“We will never know the what-ifs,” she wrote. “Like so many others, we are waiting for more information on why this happened.”
Boschee said the city can do more to develop blighted property and listen to neighborhood associations, but he believes his neighborhood will move forward.
The neighborhood has turned a negative into a positive in the past. The house where Schumacher shot Moszer was torn down, and a home for a human-trafficking survivor was built.
“We want to see our neighborhood thrive,” Boschee said.