Man brutally assaulted over cigarette dispute in Duluth

The victim is fighting for his life.
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A fight over a cigarette left one man behind bars and another in the hospital fighting for his life. 

According to a criminal complaint filed in St. Louis County, 22-year-old Chazz Joseph Smith of Duluth has been charged with first-degree assault after allegedly repeatedly punching a man who had fallen to the ground. 

The altercation happened Sunday afternoon near Mr. D’s Bar and Grill in the West Duluth neighborhood. 

Smith and the victim, who hasn't been named, "squared off to engage in a fist fight after both had previously become engaged in a verbal dispute over a cigarette," the criminal complaint says. 

The victim punched Smith first, staggering him and leaving an apparent cut on his face. Smith responded with a left-handed punch to the victim's eye that made the victim go limp and fall to the ground, hitting his head "very hard" on concrete.

Smith is then accused of straddling the victim and punching him another five times before the victim's brother broke up the fight. 

Police say witness testimony and surveillance footage confirm the accusations.

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The victim suffered multiple skull fractures and bleeding around the brain. He was hospitalized, and as of Aug. 8 when the charges were filed, he was intubated, sedated, unconscious and his recovery remained uncertain.

Smith argued self defense in an interview with police, but police say he “in part provoked the fight and also did not retreat."

If convicted, Smith faces up to 20 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine. 

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