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Police: Mich. student attack not likely hate crime

Mike Householder Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan State University student said he was attacked at an off-campus party by two men who asked if he was Jewish, and when he said he was, punched him and then stapled his mouth.

“It’s shameful that in 21st century America, such religious hatred exists in our country,” Zach Tennen, a 19-year-old sophomore, said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. “No one should ever be subjected to the horror I experienced.”

But police in East Lansing said Tuesday 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.

East Lansing police did not return several calls from The Associated Press asking for more information. The department’s statement said the assault was “not likely a hate crime,” but did not explain the criteria for classifying a case as a hate crime or why the Tennen assault did not rise to that level.

The statement said police have located two witnesses and identified a potential suspect, who “does not live in the area.”

Michigan State spokesman Kent Cassella said because the incident took place off campus, questions about the investigation should be directed to East Lansing police. Cassella said the university had reached out to Tennen’s family “to provide the academic and other support” he 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,” Cassella said.

Tennen, who is from the Detroit suburb of Franklin, was recovering Tuesday from jaw surgery and did not immediately respond to a message left with follow-up questions. The attack took place early Sunday.

Stephen Goldman, executive director of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, said while he and others at the center “abhor bias-type incidents,” they are rare in Michigan, which he said is known for its “progressive” thinking.

“I would not expect it in East Lansing any more than I would expect it here” in (the Detroit area), Goldman said. “This is a very accepting area.”

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