Raymond Widstrand was out for a walk on St. Paul’s East Side late Sunday night when he tried to make his way through a crowd of people.
Without warning, police say, Widstrand was knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly by several people, including reputed gang members.
On Friday evening, with the 26-year-old in critical but stable condition at Regions Hospital, his family and police put out an appeal for the public’s help in solving the assault.
“I can’t imagine why someone would do this to another person,” said his father, Peter Widstrand.
“This will not be tolerated by the St. Paul police nor the city of St. Paul,” said police spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos. “He should be able to walk with freedom, with peace.”
On Friday, Issac Maiden, 19, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with two counts of gang-related crimes for the beating. He also faces one count each of first-degree assault and first-degree aggravated robbery. Three juvenile male suspects were also arrested, Paulos said.
According to the complaint, police were alerted about 11:30 p.m. Sunday to a large fight in the area of Payne and Minnehaha Avenues. The responding officer found 40 to 50 juveniles and young adults fleeing the scene and Widstrand on the ground, bleeding from his nose and mouth. He was taken to Regions Hospital, where he was found to have severe, potentially fatal brain swelling.
“This was a senseless attack on an innocent young man who was simply out for a walk in his own neighborhood and is now fighting for his life,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement.
Witnesses told police the trouble started when a group of girls began to fight outside a party. A large group formed to watch the fight, and Widstrand walked into the crowd when one juvenile knocked him to the ground. Others joined in the assault, kicking and stomping on him and eventually taking his pants. A witness said someone tried using pepper spray to stop the assault.
Authorities believe many of the assailants are members of the East Side Boyz or their affiliates, the Ham Crazy gang. Maiden was identified from a still photo taken from a camera in the area, in addition to witness accounts, police said.
Maiden told police he had been at the party but left when someone sprayed him with Mace. He denied assaulting Widstrand.
Widstrand grew up in New Brighton and was a graduate of St. Cloud State University, his family said Friday. He works at Suburban Community Channels in White Bear Lake. He had been living alone in apartment on the East Side for about two months, his parents said.
“It’s hard to see anyone in your family in that condition, but seeing … your older brother, there are really no words to describe that feeling,” said Alice Widstrand, his sister.
The beating was the second incident involving young gang members in the area this summer. Last month, a 17-year-old pleaded guilty to fatally shooting another teen after a street fight near Payne and Case Avenues. The fight stemmed from a feud between the Ham Crazy gang and the Gutta Block gang, police say.
Police have increased patrols in the area and have received a grant to purchase portable cameras for surveillance. They ask anyone with information about Sunday’s incident to call 651-266-5650.