Chris Salomonson moved back to Sacramento from his home east of Fresno to surround himself with friends who would help him on his spiritual journey.
But just six months back in town, he was randomly attacked Sunday morning in the parking lot of his apartment complex near Cal Expo.
A single punch knocked the 24-year-old unconscious, according to authorities. When his limp body fell to the ground, he suffered significant head injuries and never recovered. His family ended life support Monday.
Sacramento County sheriff's detectives have arrested a 16-year-old boy in connection with Salomonson's death, said department spokesman Jason Ramos.
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Ramos said detectives believe the boy is the sole person responsible, and that he might have been trying to commit a robbery when he punched Salomonson.
Salomonson's parents are both Clovis Unified teachers. His father, Rob Salomonson, works at Clovis Community Day School and is a former water polo coach at Clovis East High School. His mother, Kristine Salomonson, works at Oraze Elementary School.
Friends in Sacramento said Salomonson was steadfast in his faith, and at one time entertained dreams of becoming a youth pastor. He was physically strong -- he played water polo at Clovis East -- but never one to act tough, they said.
"There was this incredibly soft side to him," said Cole Zick, pastor at Capital Christian Center and director of the Master's Commission Sacramento, the ministry program Salomonson attended after high school. "You'd talk to Chris and he'd immediately melt your heart with his sensitivity."
Dewayne Coleman, assistant director of the ministry program, said Salomonson returned home to be near his family, particularly his younger brother, Jake. Salomonson spoke about his younger brother almost as if the teen were his son, Coleman said, "the way he was so proud of him all the time."
Six months ago, Salomonson decided to return to Sacramento, feeling that his Master's Commission friends were spiritual advisers who should be more prominent in his life.
He was studying auto mechanics at Universal Technical Institute and, until recently, working a construction job. Last week, friends said, he began working at a gym.
A graveside service for Salomonson is set for 10 a.m. Friday at the Sanger Cemetery, and a celebration of life will follow at SouthPoint Church in Fresno.
According to the church, the family has requested that in lieu of gifts, memorial donations be made to the Pass It On Food Pantry at SouthPoint Church. For more information, call (559) 455-1119.