'I became a witness to a one-punch homicide'; Forum reporter recounts fatal fight outside Fargo hotspot
FARGO — The call came in as my Saturday shift was winding down. It was almost 11 p.m., and I was the only Forum reporter on duty.
The police scanner on my desk started squawking, and I heard a 911 dispatcher alert officers to a fight at the HoDo Restaurant and Lounge.
Knowing the upscale bar was just a block from the newspaper's downtown building, I hustled out of the newsroom and down a couple flights of stairs.
I went out an exit that put me on First Avenue North. As soon as I stepped into the warm night air, I looked west and saw a fight in progress on the sidewalk along the south side of the HoDo.
Keep in mind the fight was already happening when I got outside. I didn't see what transpired in the bar, and I don't know how much I missed of the fight on the sidewalk.
What I did see was a man in a white shirt that glowed almost electric in the light from the HoDo. This, I would later learn, was Darren Patterson. I saw him first clash with a man I would later learn was Christopher Sang.
Being that it was nighttime and I was a block away, I can't tell you specifically how Patterson struck Sang. Though, I can say with certainty that I saw Patterson strike Sang and that Sang quickly fell to the ground.
Patterson then moved a few feet toward another man who was standing off to the side by the corner of the HoDo building, near the alley that runs behind it. This was Jamie Grant. He stood facing west with his back to me. Grant was closer to me than Sang, who at this point was lying unconscious on the sidewalk.
I heard one of the men say something like, "Oh, now you're gonna fight me?" But I'm not certain whether it was Patterson or Grant speaking.
From my perspective, I couldn't tell how Grant was presenting himself to Patterson or whether Grant made any move toward Patterson. However, I did see Patterson punch Grant squarely in the head. And Grant, a taller man than Patterson, fell straight to the ground with nothing breaking his fall.
His head hit the pavement of the alley with a resounding crack. For those of you who have heard this sound, you know how awful it is. For those who haven't, I hope you never do.
As Grant lay unconscious with blood streaming from his head, Patterson walked away. Then, almost immediately, squad cars pulled up. Patterson put his arms in the air. An officer handcuffed him behind his back and placed him in one of the squad cars.
From the time I saw Patterson send Sang to the ground to when police arrived was only a matter of seconds.
After that flurry of events, I trotted the roughly 100 steps from The Forum building to the scene. One police officer was tending to Sang, while another officer knelt beside Grant, rubbing his chest, trying to wake him up. Soon after police showed up, Sang came to and was able to stand on his own. He looked disoriented and was tenderly rubbing his head.
When medics arrived, they put a brace around Grant's neck, placed him on a stretcher and loaded him, still unconscious, into an ambulance. As medics cared for Grant, other onlookers and I stood nearby.
Grant's brother Jeffrey looked on quietly, with his hands in his pockets. The brothers were dressed pretty much the same. They each wore sandals, shorts and a long-sleeve shirt with a collar.
Having seen one man knock out two men and having heard the violent sound of Grant's head hitting the ground, I knew something newsworthy had happened. So after interviewing a police sergeant, I went back to the newsroom and wrote a story.
That was May 27.
Grant died from his injuries on Monday, June 5. That's when I became a witness to a one-punch homicide.
I've known for some time that a person can die this way. But after seeing it firsthand, one lesson has been driven home:
Avoid violence whenever possible. The risks are too great.
That night, a HoDo bartender told police the Grant brothers and their friend Sang got into a fight with Patterson in the bar. Patterson, 43, and the three other men were subsequently kicked out and sent out separate doors, court documents stated.
The bartender told police Patterson crossed the street before returning and fighting the other men. Patterson said he returned to get his wife and that the men confronted him near the side door of the HoDo, court documents stated.
What the fight was over, I don't know. Whatever the reason, it clearly wasn't worth the outcome. Grant's wife is without her husband, and Grant's boy is without his dad.
While Grant's family grieves, Patterson's family worries about his fate now that he faces two felony counts of aggravated assault — charges that may become stiffer in light of Grant's death.
For the sake of everyone involved, I hope justice is served.