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Megan Card, Published June 11 2012

Fargo man accused of kidnap attempt says he was offering a ride

FARGO – A 24-year-old man accused of attempting to kidnap a woman near Island Park early Thursday told police he was trying to give the alleged victim a ride home, according to court records filed Monday.

Brandon Michael Petersen of Fargo was charged in Cass County District Court on Monday with attempted kidnapping, accused of trying to abduct Leila Hamzagic, 24, in the 300 block of Seventh Street South.

Hamzagic, a student at North Dakota State University, is quoted in a police report as saying she was on her way home from Dempsey’s Public House around 2 a.m. Thursday when Petersen allegedly grabbed her arm and pulled her to his car while saying, “You’re coming with me.”

After throwing her arms around and trying to punch her attacker in the face, Hamzagic escaped and was assisted by a passerby, who helped her inside the lobby of her building and called 911, the report said.

Hamzagic had several scrapes on her hands, right arm and foot. Police also said in the report that she “smelled strong of an alcoholic beverage” and that she told officers she couldn’t remember how she got separated from her boyfriend that evening.

Police traced the license plate of the suspect’s vehicle back to a red 2002 Chevy Cavalier registered to Petersen. Hamzagic’s description of the suspect also matched Petersen, police said in the report.

Detectives Matt Ysteboe and Paul Holte questioned Petersen at his home, and he disclosed many similar details to Hamzagic’s version of the incident, police say in reports filed with the charges on Monday.

Petersen said during the night in question, he had been working at Sunmart in Moorhead when he left for a break to drive to downtown Fargo.

He claimed he saw a girl wandering around, and he stopped and asked her if she wanted a ride. She said no, and Petersen proceeded to park his car and approach her on foot, he said.

Petersen made an initial court appearance Monday at which his bail was set at $50,000. He’s being held in the Cass County Jail.

Reached by a reporter for The Forum on Saturday, Petersen declined comment.

A phone number could not be found for Hamzagic.

If convicted of the Class B felony charge of attempted kidnapping, Petersen could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.