Police and family members remained puzzled Sunday by the single punch that claimed the life of 20-year-old college student Colton Gleason in St. Cloud.

Gleason, from Greenfield, hit his head when he fell to the ground after his assailant got out of a passing car and struck him as he walked with two friends Thursday night, according to St. Cloud Police. He died Friday night from the head injuries.

"This was a violent, unnecessary and senseless crime," said Gleason's father, John Gleason. "We want justice. We're still trying to get some direction out of this."

The elder Gleason said his son was visiting friends in St. Cloud on Thursday and had planned to leave Friday for a mountain bike trip to northern Minnesota with his parents.

But shortly before 11:30 p.m. he was assaulted in a St. Cloud alley, police said.

Police said a car, described as a light colored four-door that might be an older model, passed close by Colton and his friends before stopping.

His father said Sunday that his understanding is that the car passed so close to the group that his son had his hands on the vehicle as he held back his friends from being hit.

Shortly after the near miss, the vehicle stopped and several people got out and approached Colton and his friends, police said.

One of the people from the car hit Colton. Police did not give a fuller description.

John Gleason said his son was probably protecting his friends when he was attacked.

"My son put himself in harm's way and it cost him his life," the father said.

Authorities issued a call over the weekend asking for the public's help in identifying the assailant and the people in the vehicle. Police also asked those in the vehicle to come forward.

"The occupants of this vehicle witnessed this assault," police said in a news release. "We are asking for their cooperation in coming forward and speaking to law enforcement."

Crimestoppers has offered a reward of $1,000 for information leading to an arrest in the assault.

After the attack, Colton Gleason was taken to St. Cloud Hospital, where he died about 9:15 p.m. Friday.

Police said that while it is unclear what prompted the attack, it does not appear that Gleason knew the attackers.

"It was totally random," said Steve Gleason, one of Colton's two brothers.

John Gleason said he hopes that someone, especially one of the people in the car, will come forward and tell police what happened.

"It's going to be a matter of conscience," he said. "You hope and pray that someone is going to say, 'I gotta let somebody know what happened.'"

Gleason said his family already is receiving condolences from people all over the country.

"My son touched the lives of a lot of people," John Gleason said, noting that he played soccer and football at Orono High School before graduating in 2010. He then enrolled at Florida Atlantic University for a year before enrolling at Minnesota State-Mankato, majoring in business.

Most recently he had returned to live at home and work at the family flooring business while he prepared to take online courses focusing on information technology, his father said.

"He was smiling all the time. His interests were living life to its fullest," John Gleason said.

"For a parent to outlive their son, that just can't be described," the elder Gleason said Sunday night. "I'll never get over it. It's always going to be with me."

Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281