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Police suspect killing near grocery store was a drug-related death: 26-year-old found dead after disturbance reported in Fargo parking lot

FNS Photo by Emily Welker Authorities survey the scene of where a body was found behind a Fargo strip mall early Friday.

FARGO – Police believe a 26-year-old man found dead near a Fargo grocery store early Friday was killed in a dispute suspected to be drug-related.

Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said the 26-year-old man, who has been identified but wasn’t publicly named Friday because his family hadn’t been notified, appears to have been killed by an assault with a sharp or edged weapon.

The homicide victim was found after Fargo police received a call about a disturbance at a Cash Wise store on 33rd Street South at 12:20 a.m., Ternes said.

A 911 caller described what appeared to be a crash involving two vehicles that quickly evolved into a disturbance involving the occupants of the vehicles.

When officers arrived, they found one vehicle matching the description in the 911 call in the grocery store parking lot with its tires slashed, Ternes said. No one was in the vehicle.

A second vehicle believed to be involved in the initial disturbance was found just east of 33rd Street South, which is the street east of the grocery store.

Two men who were found in that car were detained for questioning Friday, Ternes said.

Soon after the second vehicle was found, officers located the dead man about 100 yards east of the second vehicle.

The two men detained Friday were interviewed throughout the morning and into the afternoon at the Fargo Police Department, the chief said.

Though Ternes said he wouldn’t go so far as to describe the two men as being cooperative, they provided some information that helped investigators.

“We’re not prepared to make an arrest of those two individuals at this point,” he said at a news conference Friday.

“We’re early in this, and I know the investigators assigned to this are working as diligently as possible,” Ternes said.

Police also are looking for “several” other individuals who were present at the scene of the initial disturbance, Ternes said. He said it would be fair to describe those people as suspects in the homicide.

Investigators believe the initial disturbance and the killing are related, and the dispute appears to be drug-related, Ternes said.

He would not identify which illegal drugs were involved.

Ternes said it appears all involved were acquaintances.

It doesn’t appear anyone else was injured, he said.

Lt. Joel Vettel said police will likely identify the dead man today. Police believe he was living in Cass County, but they think he had no steady address and stayed at a variety of residences.

His body has been sent to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.

It’s the first homicide in Fargo this year. The most recent homicide was the fatal stabbing of Samantha Wickenheiser and Ward Allen Berg on Nov. 23.

David George Stevens, the 35-year-old ex-boyfriend of Wickenheiser, pleaded guilty Jan. 31 to the double murder. He is awaiting sentencing.