19-year-old Michigan State University sophomore Zachary Tennen is recovering from a severely broken jaw, after he says he was assaulted early Sunday morning because he's Jewish.
"Right below my two bottom teeth, it's cracked in the middle, and then it goes down into my chin," Tennen told WDIV in an interview Monday.
Tennen said two men approached him after a party on Spartan Ave. just off campus, and asked if he was Jewish. He told them "Yes." Then, he said he was knocked unconscious, his jaw broken, and when he came to, his mouth was stapled.
"They were making Nazi and Hitler symbols, and they said they were part of the KKK," Tennen said.
East Lansing Police said there are still some holes in the investigation. They said the key right now is getting a full statement from Tennen, tracking down the cab driver that drove him to the hospital after the incident, and finding the suspect.
Two witnesses have come forward and were able to provide enough information to lead police to a suspect in the Detroit area.
"That suspect does not live in East Lansing," said East Lansing Police Captain Jeffrey Murphy. "We're not sure right now what his connection to East Lansing is, we don't know if he was just here for a party or had a friend in town, but he is apparently down in the Detroit area and we're down there right now looking for him."
Police are also in the Detroit area waiting to talk to Tennen, who's from Oakland County. Police said they're not treating this as a hate crime until they know for sure what led up to the incident.
"We're just investigating it like we would any other assault," Murphy said. "That hate crime added charge is very specific, and when we present everything to the prosecutor, if we have information that leads them to believe it's a hate crime, then they'll charge it accordingly."
MSU diversity groups are coming forward and calling this a hate crime, asking police to prosecute it that way.
"It's a very serious incident, and although we know it's an isolated incident, it should have never happened in the first place," said Dirk Roberts, Program Associate for MSU Hillel.
Roberts knows Tennen personally, and said he's devastated by the incident. Tennen is now recovering at home after surgery Monday night.
Though the incident occurred off campus, an MSU Public Relations spokesperson did release a statement saying they've contacted the Tennen family:
“Michigan State University’s Student Affairs and Services office has reached out to the family of the student who said he was 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.”
East Lansing Police UPDATE 2:30PM:
A statement from the City of East Lansing says, "The East Lansing Police Department's preliminary investigation into this past weekend's reported assault indicates that it is not likely a hate crime." The statement goes on to say that the police have located two witnesses and identified a potential suspect, who does not live in the area. The police say they are making "significant progress with the case," and they expect to provide more information when it becomes available.
WILX News 10 is checking with police for a further explanation as to why they say it is unlikely this assault was a hate crime.
EAST LANSING - a 19-year-old MSU student says he was beaten after telling others at a weekend party he was Jewish. Zach Tennen, a MSU sophomore from Franklin, Oakland County tells WDIV-TV in Detroit that he was at a party at a house in East Lansing off campus early Sunday morning. Tennen says that just before he was attacked, two men asked whether he was Jewish. According to the interview Tennen did with WDIV, Tennen said he was Jewish. He says upon hearing that his attackers made Nazi symbols, and said they were part of the KKK. Then he was punched in the face and knocked unconscious.
Tennen says when he regained consciousness, he had a staple in his mouth. Tennen went to Sparrow Hospital for treatment.
A statement from East Lansing Police says the assault took place in the 500 block of Spartan Avenue at approximately 2:30AM Sunday. Police say witnesses are being interviewed and ELPD is working on the identity of the suspects. Anyone with information is asked to contact ELPD Detective Dan Brown at 517-319-6811.