Homeless man, robbed of $5 during beating in Mpls., dies

  • Article by: NICOLE NORFLEET , a nd MATT M c KINNEY
  • Updated: July 10, 2012 - 11:23 PM

Two suspects, who now face second-degree murder charges, told Minneapolis police they spent the money on liquor.

Harry Lee Brown was left with nothing but the loose change scattered next to him as he lay dying on a sidewalk in north Minneapolis, his pockets turned inside out and blood running from his head.

The 50-year-old homeless man died Sunday, more than a week after a man and a teenager allegedly punched him and beat him with a baseball bat before taking $5.

Willis Esposito Richardson, 23, of Minneapolis, and Andre Zedrick Steward Jr., 17, of Richfield, have been charged with second-degree murder in Hennepin County District Court.

"It's tragic and totally senseless," Cathy ten Broeke, director of the Minneapolis-Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness, said of Brown's death. "I just hope so much that this creates even more community will to support the solutions to homelessness to get people safely inside."

According to the criminal complaint filed Monday, Richardson and Esposito used a bat and their fists when they attacked Brown about 9:20 p.m. on June 29 near the intersection of 18th and Bryant Avenues N. He died at Hennepin County Medical Center as a result of blunt-force head injuries, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner.

On the evening Brown was attacked, Richardson and Steward had told someone that they wanted to do "a stain," or a robbery, according to the complaint. Moments later, a witness saw the two approach Brown. Richardson hit him in the legs with the bat while Steward punched him in the face, according to the complaint. Brown fell and hit his head on the sidewalk. A witness said Brown then lay down and "went to sleep."

Steward later told police they used Brown's money to buy liquor, the complaint said.

Richardson was to make his first appearance in court on Tuesday. Steward made his first appearance on Monday in juvenile court. The Hennepin County attorney's office will petition to have him tried as an adult, according to court papers.

According to a Wilder Research report released in 2010, out of the more than 4,500 homeless people in Minnesota who were surveyed the year before, 20 percent said they had been physically or sexually assaulted while homeless. Twelve percent had to seek health care because of an injury or illness resulting from violence in the past year. And 11 percent reported a head injury followed by symptoms of likely traumatic brain injury that occurred after they had become homeless for the first time.

That danger will persist unless people can get into real homes, advocates warned.

"As long as we don't invest in affordable housing to the degree that we choose to invest in other things, people will be sheltered," said Monica Nilsson, the director of the street outreach team for St. Stephen's Human Services. "They may be sheltered in a hospital or prison or detox or in Harry's place -- in the cemetery."

mckinney@startribune.com • 612-673-7329 nicole.norfleet@startribune.com • 612-673-4495

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