West Fargo landlord ran over tenant with Hummer in eviction dispute, police say
A 73-year-old West Fargo landlord is being investigated for aggravated assault after he allegedly ran over his tenant with a Hummer on Friday night, sending the 31-year-old man to the hospital.
But Alois Vetter, former owner of West Fargo's Sunset Motel, said he didn't intentionally run over Brian Hemphill, a tenant he was evicting after he failed to pay rent.
"They should file aggravated assault against him," Vetter said. "He was the one who assaulted me in the middle of the road."
West Fargo police were dispatched to a vehicle-pedestrian crash about 7:15 p.m. Friday in the 600 block of Second Avenue West, in front of duplexes Vetter owns.
Sgt. Gary Bommersbach said Sunday that investigators believe the incident was intentional.
Vetter has not been arrested or cited.
Bommersbach said investigators are waiting to interview Hemphill, which they hoped to do today or Tuesday. Hemphill was in guarded condition Sunday at Essentia Health with injuries that are not life-threatening.
Police will likely recommend that Vetter be charged with aggravated assault, Bommersbach said.
In an interview Sunday, Vetter said Hemphill had been his tenant for about six months but had failed to pay his rent recently.
Vetter said he was in the process of evicting Hemphill and a woman who also lived in the duplex.
On Friday night, Vetter said he drove by the duplex to see if they were moving out when he encountered a man in the middle of the road walking toward his vehicle motioning with his thumbs down.
Vetter said it was dark and he couldn't tell who the man was. The man would not get out of the way.
"I was going slow enough so that when we made contact, the Hummer was just barely moving," Vetter recalled. "He slapped his hands on the Hummer, put his chest on the Hummer, and then he peddled backwards for about 20 feet."
Vetter said he was trying to get around the man in the narrow road. At one point while Vetter was pushing the man with his vehicle, the Hummer accidentally went out of gear and Vetter said he looked down.
"I panicked for a little bit, then I got it back in gear," Vetter said. "Then I looked up and he was gone."
Vetter said wasn't sure that he ran the man over until he talked to police later.
During the incident, Vetter said he felt scared and threatened. A second man also came behind the vehicle, Vetter said, and he feared the man was going to break his window.
"I'm convinced that if they could have stopped the vehicle and gotten to me, I'd probably be in a morgue," Vetter said.
A neighbor reported the incident to police, Bommersbach said. A phone listing for the neighbor was unavailable.
Police have said alcohol was not a factor.
If charges are filed, Vetter said he will hire an attorney to fight them.
"I would not intentionally hurt anybody," Vetter said.