REDDING – Tempers must have been running hot on late Saturday night, when an encounter between two men in a car and two men on the street turned violent. Apparently the car nearly hit the two who were walking, and when they voiced their objections, no doubt with choice words, and perhaps even gestures, it was enough to make the driver of the car, Claude Alexander Schmies Jr., make what turned out to be a fatal decision.
48-year-old Schmies, who is known as Alex to family and friends, threw the car into reverse and sped back towards the two men on the street in what they later described as an “aggressive” move. Schmies was traveling with a friend, 29-year-old John Raymond Fritz. Both men were ex-convicts who were out on AB109 post release supervision (Schmies) and parole (Fritz). Their arrest histories don’t show any violent crimes, with the possible exception of a charge of resisting arrest for Fritz (which could mean just running away.) Fritz had faced both burglary charges and drug offenses, and Schmies weapon violations.
The two men on the street were both younger – Richard James Hiers is 22 and Nathan Robert Byers is 19. They were walking, apparently from a friend’s house on Veda Street and headed towards Elmwood. They may have been intoxicated as well; police specified alcohol was a factor in the fight that followed. A family member of Schmies, however, reported that he himself had not been drinking or using drugs that night.
When Schmies backed up his car, the two younger men also approached. Schmies and Fritz got out of the car and the fight began. Hiers stated later that Schmies had brought a large metal flashlight from the car, and in the altercation, struck him in the head, causing a laceration on the left side. The fight lasted all of four minutes, and ended with Schmies and Fritz both unconscious and lying on the street.
That may have been the end of it – a simple, but violent street fight that left 4 men battered, and two of them prevalent and walking away to tend to their wounds. But according to a witness account, one of the two, perhaps Hiers who had been hit with the flashlight, came back to deliver a final blow – a kick to the head of Schmies as he lay defenseless on the street.
The two younger men then returned to their friend’s house and related the story. At 12:40 am, now Sunday morning, the friend called 9-1-1 to report the two men lying in the street. The call took a total of 25 minutes, but the resulting call for help was interpreted as a report of a vehicle striking the two victims. Redding Police, who were busy with another violent criminal, initially summoned Highway Patrol to respond to the scene along with emergency medical personnel. Redding PD investigators took over the case at 1:18 am.
Hiers and Byers were located and interviewed about the incident, while Schmies and Fritz were both hospitalized. Meanwhile, the nearby California Safety Company, which specializes in equipment to detect and deter criminals as well as fires and other dangers, has video surveillance cameras outside of their building, located right on the corner of Veda and Elmwood. Police investigators analyzed 30 minutes of the footage, compared it to the 911 call recording, and interviewed other witnesses. As a result of that investigation, Redding Police announced yesterday evening that Hiers and Byers were both arrested on the charge of murder. They are being held without bail at Shasta County Jail.
CrimeVoice: Late night street fight sends two to ER