Good Samaritan dies in vicious beating on Fresno street

The Fresno BeeJuly 3, 2014 

A bicyclist trying to be a good Samaritan was targeted early Monday in a brutal beating that ended in his death at Belmont and Calaveras avenues, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said Thursday.

Nathan Halsted, 49, died after being beaten senseless by twin brothers when he came to the aid of a woman being assaulted by the suspects, Dyer said.

At a news conference, police showed a video that depicted Halsted being punched, kicked and stomped. The suspects then fled, and the victim was run over by a motorist who did not see him while driving through the area. The brothers, Gerald and Jared Smith, 18, also attacked a another man on foot and a motorist who tried to stop the mayhem.

The two now face allegations of murder and assault after they were arrested Wednesday.

Dyer said the two "were like animals pursuing prey."

Police who initially responded to the predawn incident believed that Halsted had died in a collision involving his bike and a motor vehicle. But officers soon began piecing together the violent homicide, which began at a gasoline station at Belmont and Calaveras where the brothers were beating a 35-year-old woman, Dyer said.

Halsted was riding his bicycle east on Belmont when he witnessed the attack and rode toward the brothers, apparently telling the two to leave her alone. Instead, Dyer said, they turned on him, pulling him off his bicycle and launching a minutes-long attack with fists and feet.

The entire assault was caught on camera by one of the department's street-mounted video cameras. On Thursday, detectives walked the media through video images that were dark and grainy, but stark with the violence of the assault, as Halsted repeatedly attempts to escape. Police did not release copies of the video.

Dyer said the woman first assaulted managed to flee and later told officers she believed she would have died had Halsted not interceded.

This was not like the story of Kitty Geneovese, the New York woman whose brutal murder in 1964 was etched in the consciousness of a generation of Americans because dozens of people supposedly heard her pleas for help and did nothing. At least three good Samaritans tried to stop the mayhem Monday night on Belmont -- Halsted, stepping in to save the woman; an unknown pedestrian who tried to help Halsted; and the driver of a truck who circled the brothers, also trying to get them to stop. Both the pedestrian and the motorist were driven off by the brothers, who stopped only long enough to fight them off before returning to Halsted, brutally kicking him as he lay defenseless in the street.

Finally, the pair walked away, south on Calaveras. The camera then shows several motorists driving through the area, including one who ran over Halsted's bicycle and another who accidentally ran over Halsted himself.

Dyer said the motorist was not at fault for striking Halsted. The driver, who was on his way to work, was upset and despondent, the chief said.

But the murder was on the brothers, he added.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6339, jguy@fresnobee.com or @jimguy27 on Twitter.

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