Merced County man dies after early morning altercation

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Merced County man is dead following what was initially described as a sword fight.

But deputies aren't sure how the man died, or who is responsible.

The victim died early on Thursday morning after a fight with another man, who was armed with a homemade weed cutter. But it doesn't appear an injury suffered in the fight is what caused his death.

The death occured at a home off of Lake Road near the UC Merced Campus.

The investigation shut down the road for several hours.

Though the death was initially reported to have been the result of a samurai sword fight, Sheriff Vern Warnke says that's not quite what happened.

"It was not a sword fight. It was a fist fight that eventually somebody got their hands on this bladed weapon and used it during this altercation," says Warnke.

The sheriff says the weapon was actually a garden tool.

The victim suffered a cut to one finger. But Hank Patterson, a witness at the scene, says the victim panicked, then dropped dead.

"At first he was yelling, 'Hey! Call an ambulance, my fingers are gone'. I told him, 'Oh no, you are tripping let me see'. I unwrapped it and he just had a cut. When he looked at it, he just took a deep breath and fell over."

Patterson says he attempted CPR, 911 was called but paramedics were unable to revive the man.

Patterson says the fight started when the victim got upset when he was told to leave the property he had been staying on for a couple of weeks.

The sheriff says everybody involved appeared to have been drinking heavily. No charges have been filed and it's not clear if any will be.

The victim was 39 years old. An initial report indicated it looked like he had heart problems, but a family member told us they were not aware of any.

The dead man's name has not been made public, and the man he was fighting with has not been identified, although we are told he and the victim had been friends.
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