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Police: 70-year-old assault victim's family did not have a chance to say goodbye

Syracuse residents are still waiting to learn what new charges a teenager will face after a man he is accused of brutally assaulting in a convenience store parking lot died at a local hospital.
 (WSYR-TV)
(WSYR-TV)
James Gifford
James Gifford
Updated at 4:29 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26:

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – Syracuse residents are still waiting to learn what new charges a teenager will face after a man he is accused of brutally assaulting in a convenience store parking lot died at a local hospital.

Syracuse Police confirm that James Gifford died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the attack, which they characterize as random and unprovoked.

"It is just one of those cases that makes us all shake our heads and try to understand why and how someone would do this to one of the most vulnerable in our community," said Sgt. Tom Connellan with the Syracuse Police Department.

18-year-old Romeo Williams was charged with assault in connection to the incident, which police are now calling a homicide.

Police said they would work with the Onondaga County District Attorney's office to determine what new charges Williams will face.

Gifford had been hospitalized since the attack occurred on Saturday, Sept. 21 just after 6 a.m. on Valley Drive in Syracuse.

His family was in Texas and didn’t have the chance to say goodbye.

"Unfortunately, his family did not make it to Syracuse before he passed today and we're all very sad about that because we know that they wanted to get here so that he was not alone," Sgt. Connellan explained.

Police say Williams was not alone during the incident and they have identified several men who were with him, but so far no one else has been charged.

According to police, Williams had 14 prior arrests, including three felonies.

In August, he was arrested for criminal possession of a weapon.

With Williams already behind bars on the latest assault charge, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick says police will have time to complete the investigation, allowing his office to present all the evidence to a Grand Jury.

"There is no presumption as to what the Grand Jury will do, but certainly its members will be asked to consider homicide charges," Fitzpatrick said in a statement to NewsChannel 9.

Fitzpatrick says the process will commence in the next several weeks.

"We're going to do our job to make sure that we're going to put together the absolute best possible case that we can, to make sure that Romeo Williams goes to jail and goes to jail for a very long time," Sgt. Connellan said.


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