Hernandez, a father of two, never recovered from multiple skull fractures and died Sunday.
The attack fit the robbery pattern almost exactly: He was alone and intoxicated in the region where the other robberies occurred; he was targeted by three young men and assaulted, with a savage punch to the head, his cellphone was stolen from his pocket as he lay on the ground.
Minneapolis police investigators found one of the men believed responsible for the attack, thanks to his use of Hernandez’s cellphone.
Vereice Dshon Washington, 20, of Brooklyn Center, faces two felony charges of assault and aggravated robbery. He told police the other two robbers were “Big Loc” and “KO,” who remain at large.
Five days before the attack on Hernandez, Richard Somaiah survived a nearly identical attack.
“I was by myself and just walking down the street,” the 22-year-old student said. He had been out that night with co-workers on a Pedal Pub. He drank too much and was visibly intoxicated, he said, eventually leaving his friends and walking toward Loring Park. He remembers three or four young black men following him.
“They were telling me, ‘Nice chain, nice watch,’ or whatever,” he said.
They surrounded him near the intersection of Willow Street and Yale Place, just west of where the other attacks occurred. Then he was blindsided.
“I got suckerpunched on my right eyebrow,” he said. He thinks he was knocked out and eventually realized he had been robbed of his iPhone, a watch, a necklace and his Lakers baseball hat.
Fearing for his safety, he started pulling on car doors and eventually found a vehicle to hide in. That’s where the police found him later, he said.
“I don’t know why I was alone,” he said. He knows that he struck his face hard on the pavement when he fell, and counts himself lucky that nothing worse happened.
Phones: Popular target
The police have reported about one robbery a day so far this year downtown, a dramatic increase from two years ago.
Robberies are up about 1 percent so far this year over last year and up 81 percent this year over two years ago.
Phone thefts, in particular, have been a problem, but that’s not unique to Minneapolis.
About a third of all robberies in major U.S. cities involve the theft of a phone, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
A rash of smartphone thefts along the Hiawatha light-rail line led transit officials two years ago to issue strongly worded warnings to all riders to pay attention.