EAST LANSING (WWJ) - A Michigan State University student is recovering after he was beaten up and had his mouth stapled shut during what investigators are categorizing as a brutal hate crime.
Zachary Tennen, a 19-year-old sophomore in MSU’s journalism program, said he was at a house party on the 500 block of Spartan Avenue early Sunday morning when two men approached him and asked if he was Jewish. When he responded “Yes,” the two men raised their arms into a Nazi salute and said “Heil Hitler” before knocking him unconscious, according to Tennen’s mother, Tina.
About 20 people reportedly watched as the men proceeded to staple Zachary Tennen’s mouth shut at the lips and gums. His jaw was broken in two places during the attack.
“They knocked me down really hard … and I assumed someone would help me,” Zachary Tennen said in a statement. “But after some guys at the house basically kicked me out, I had to get a cab.”
Tina Tennen told the Detroit Free Press her son took a cab to Sparrow Hospital in East Lansing for initial treatment, but underwent surgery in metro Detroit Monday night to have his jaw wired shut. He is now recovering at his home in Franklin.
“It almost seemed like they tried to kill me, and to think about that in my brain, physically — it isn’t very pleasant,” Zachary Tennen told campus newspaper The State News.
Tina Tennen said they have filed a report with East Lansing Police in hopes of finding her son’s attackers and have contacted the Anti-Defamation League, as well as the FBI.
“I just heard from our detective bureau that they had found some people that had witnessed it. They were going out to get statements from them, but we haven’t heard anything that there was people standing by that didn’t do anything to aid him. In fact, just the opposite, that after he was assaulted, some people helped him to get a ride to the hospital. Unfortunately, nobody called police or an ambulance or anything,” East Lansing Police Capt. Jeff Murphy told WWJ’s Marie Osborne.
Murphy said East Lansing police only learned of the incident after they were contacted by the school, which was contacted by Zachary Tennen’s father late Sunday.
After becoming aware of incident, which occurred about a half-mile north of the school’s campus, Michigan State’s Student Affairs and Services released the following statement:
“Michigan State University’s Student Affairs and Services office has reached out to the family of the student assaulted in East Lansing to provide the academic and other support the student needs. MSU will work with the student and his professors to ensure he can fulfill his academic requirements, as we would with any student in need. As the incident occurred off campus in East Lansing, all questions about the police investigation need to go the East Lansing Police Department.”
Zachary Tennen hopes to return to MSU in about a week, eating only liquids through a straw while his jaw heals.
“I want everyone to know how severe this is. They could have killed me. I’m going to try my best to make sure they don’t get away with this,” he said.
Anyone who may have witnessed or has information on the incident is asked to call the East Lansing Police Department at 517-351-4220.