EAST LANSING (WWJ/AP) – A suspect has been identified in the attack of a Michigan State University student, but police are questioning if a hate crime actually took place.
Zachary Tennen, a 19-year-old sophomore from Franklin, 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 allegedly raised their arms into a Nazi salute and said “Heil Hitler” before knocking him unconscious.
Tennen also said about 20 people watched as the men proceeded to staple his 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.”
Police in East Lansing, however, say the incident probably isn’t a hate crime, and neither police nor Tennen’s statement provided details about the attack, including how many people were present. Police didn’t explain the criteria for classifying a case as a hate crime or why Tennen’s case didn’t rise to that level.
A police statement said investigators have located two witnesses and identified a potential suspect, who “does not live in the area.”
Tennen’s family maintains a hate crime did take place and has been in contact with the Anti-Defamation League, which calls the incident “one of the worst discrimination cases” they’ve ever seen.
“Given the horrific nature of this beating and that no one came to his rescue, the ADL is horrified that no one came to the rescue,” ADL Detroit Regional Director Betsy Kellman said in a statement.
East Lansing Police Capt. Jeff Murphy told WWJ Newsradio 950 that the opposite happened, “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,” Murphy added.
MSU officials say the incident occurred about a half-mile north of the school’s campus, so the investigation is in the hands of police. The school says they’ve reached out to Tennen’s family “to provide the academic and other support” he needs.
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