Tension regarding an assault on journalism sophomore Zachary Tennen continues to build as the East Lansing Police Department, or ELPD, released a statement that the assault likely was not an anti-Semitic hate crime, despite claims from the Tennen family asserting otherwise.
Tennen, a Jewish student, said he was approached by two men at a party on the 500 block of Spartan Avenue at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Both assailants were making Nazi and Hitler references, later knocking him unconscious by hitting him in the jaw and causing it to break in two places while at least 20 people watched, he said.
When Tennen awoke, he had a staple in his lip and bottom gum, which he twisted and pulled out of his mouth, he said.
“I hope people just understand what happened and understand this was a hate crime,” Tennen described Tuesday evening at his home in Franklin, Mich.
Tennen had taken Vicodin earlier in the day, and it was difficult for him to speak because his jaw was wired shut Monday in an operation meant to fix his injuries.
ELPD officials said they have yet to put such a label on the incident, after finding two witnesses who denied seeing any Nazi or Hitler gestures prior to the assault.
“The witnesses that watched the assault, they said our victim was having some sort of confrontation with men (in the house’s driveway),” East Lansing Police Capt. Jeff Murphy said Tuesday evening.
“The victim got punched and went down.”
Witnesses said they actually put frozen vegetables on Tennen’s face and helped him into a cab which took him to Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital, Murphy said.
The police currently are searching for one suspect from the Detroit area that allegedly is connected to the incident, Murphy said.
Murphy said the ELPD needs more evidence before it can label the incident a hate crime.
Tina Tennen, Zachary’s mother, said she hopes witnesses who saw the incident would not be afraid to come forward. She considers the assault on Zachary to be a hate crime.
“I guess that could be a lesson for other people to not be afraid to come forward,” Tina Tennen said. “Unless people do come forward, it is going to happen again, so that’s what I hope the other students would do for my son.”