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Published September 25 2012

Grandfather attacked after confronting cusser at Fargo Ground Round

FARGO – Based on the string of obscenities piercing the air, Richard Matthews knew the young man sitting across the aisle at Ground Round wasn’t well-versed in North Dakota nice.

But the 62-year-old, who was eating supper with his wife and 2-year-old grandson Friday night, didn’t predict that saying something to the man about his boorish behavior in the restaurant would get him California cold-cocked.

“I should have kept my mouth shut,” Matthews said, “but we got him.”

Police allege 29-year-old Brendan Scott Marjama beat Matthews unconscious, then fled to the nearby Hooters restaurant, where he punched a man in the parking lot and tried to steal his wallet.

Marjama, a day laborer from California, was charged Monday with one count of robbery and two counts of aggravated assault in Cass County District Court.

As Matthews recalled the incident Tuesday:

He and his wife, Vicki, who own a manufacturing business in Fargo, were having supper with their grandson when two guys sat down in a booth across the aisle. The older of the two began talking loudly on his cellphone.

“I didn’t even notice them until the verbal sewage started flowing down the aisles,” Matthews said.

On Matthews’ way out of the restaurant, he stopped at the man’s table.

“I leaned over and said, ‘Hey buddy, would you mind just keeping it down a little bit? There’s a lot of older people in this restaurant.’ ”

The man looked up and tipped his hat back.

“And he goes, ‘What did you say to me homey?’ I thought, ‘Oh no,’ ” Matthews recalled.

Matthews again asked the man to keep it down.

“And he said, ‘I’m from California, and I’m going to eff you up,’ ” he said.

The man followed Matthews to the entryway and “was just continually kind of in my face, kind of threatening me, and I looked over at the hostess and I said, ‘Call the police right now.’ ”

Matthews and his wife and grandson walked out to their car, and again the man followed.

“He walked out there right behind me, came up to me and stuck his hand out and says, ‘Look, man, no hard feelings.’ I looked at him and he said, ‘No, really,’ so I shook his hand, and the next thing I know, I was getting stomped. He knocked me out. I didn’t see him swing at all. I felt the blows as I was knocked unconscious, and I was down on the asphalt trying to get up. My wife didn’t even see it happen, it happened so fast. He just sucker-punched me,” he said.

A witness in the parking lot called police at 8:18 p.m. and kept track of the attacker and his companion as they fled on foot.

“And I shook the cobwebs out of my head and got in my car, and Vicki asked me if I’m OK, and I go, ‘Yeah, I’ve just never been knocked out before,’ ” Matthews said. “And she says, ‘Well, let’s go find him.’ And I said, ‘No, let’s go home.’ And she says, ‘Bob, don’t let him get away with it.’ ”

Remembering that the man said he was from California, they drove across 13th Avenue South to the Doublewood Inn and scanned the parking lot with no luck. Thinking the two guys might have gone to another bar, they drove down the street to Hooters.

“When we pulled into Hooters, there they were stomping some other guy in the parking lot of Hooters. I go, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’ ” Matthews said.

The Hooters victim told police he’d been eating with his wife and had gone out to his car to retrieve a jacket when he heard a male’s voice saying “homeboy” and “do you want a cigarette?” The man said he thought the person was talking to someone else so he didn’t reply.

As he shut his car door, he was suddenly pinned up against the vehicle and punched in the left side of the face, the police report states.

After the victim fell to the ground, Marjama allegedly demanded his wallet. The victim said it was inside with his wife, and the other person with Marjama allegedly kicked the victim in the head two or three times.

Matthews said Marjama and his companion fled on foot across a field toward Cactus Jack’s. Matthews and his wife headed down the Interstate 29 frontage road toward the bar, and as they passed Motel 6, they saw the two, he said.

Marjama was arrested at Motel 6 and taken to the Cass County Jail. He told police he was never at Hooters and denied any involvement, the report states.

Bail was set Monday at $50,000 cash or bond.

If convicted, Marjama faces up to 10 years in prison for the robbery charge and five years for each of the assault charges.

Police also are recommending a misdemeanor assault charge against his companion, a 14-year-old boy who allegedly kicked the second victim, Assistant State’s Attorney Renata Selzer said.

Marjama, whose first name also is listed in public records under the alternate spelling “Brenden,” arrived in Fargo from California this summer and had been working construction jobs here, according to a Forum story about day laborers published on Sept. 3.

Matthews said he still has two bruises on his chin from where he was punched. Fortunately, he said, his grandson didn’t witness the assault.

“(He) didn’t even know anything happened to Papa,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528