Tennen family requests to drop assault case
More than a month after journalism sophomore Zachary Tennen had his jaw broken in what he said was an anti-Semitic act, Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III received notice from the Tennen family that he drop the case.
As of Thursday, no charges have been filed. In addition, no arrests have been made, and the case is not considered a hate crime.
The East Lansing Police Department, or ELPD, released a 60-page report of the incident to The State News on Thursday afternoon shortly after Dunnings announced he received the request to drop the case.
In the report, which included more than 50 witness statements, 38 people said they had not seen Tennen at a party Aug. 26 in the 500 block of Spartan Avenue. Few witnesses said they knew an assault took place, and no witnesses — other than Tennen — said they saw Nazi or KKK gestures from any party guests.
According to the report, several female students told police Tennen made advances on them at the party, touched them inappropriately, asked them to make out with him and invited them back to his apartment.
One woman said after trying to avoid Tennen several times in the backyard, she was approached by him while she was sitting outside. Tennen came up to sit next to her and began touching her in a way that made her feel “extremely uncomfortable and scared,” she told police, the report reveals.
“I looked at my phone and ignored him in hopes that he’d walk away,” the witness said. “Instead he … placed his right hand across my chest and on my upper right thigh and then began to move lower to my private parts.”
The witness said Tennen was pushing against her so she couldn’t stand up or get away and asked her to make out with him.
After slapping his hand away, she went to get help from one of her friends — the man police identified as the suspect who punched Tennen.
The suspect was approached by girls at the party who told him they felt uncomfortable with Tennen’s advances, he said in a statement to police.
The suspect said he warned Tennen in a private conversation to stop hitting on the girls.
“I told him one more time — I will hit you if you do it one more time,” the suspect said, according to police records. “Twenty minutes later, he was back at it.”
The suspect and a friend who also attended the party later told police they were both frustrated with Tennen and approached him at the end of the driveway, giving him one “last chance” before the suspect punched Tennen once in the face.
Several witnesses said Tennen fell to the ground after the first punch, and guests at the party helped him inside to give him an ice pack and inspect his mouth.
A witness who helped Tennen inside the house said she saw what looked like a staple or some type of dental work, such as braces wire, stuck inside his mouth. She tried to help him pull it out, but it could not be removed.
The report did not verify whether Tennen had such a dental appliance before the assault. Tennen and his family did not return calls for comment Thursday.
In a letter to Dunnings on Monday, the Tennen family’s attorney, Henry Scharg, thanked law enforcement officials for “conducting a full and fair investigation.”
Another male witness said prior to the assault, Tennen asked him odd personal questions and wanted to know if he was Jewish, to which the witness replied that he was.
After Tennen commented that the witnesses’s name did not sound Jewish, Tennen went on to tell the witness he was drunk and high, the witness said.
Other witnesses at the party described Tennen as having a “bad attitude,” “very intoxicated” and “confused” after his assault.
Despite some inconsistencies between the story Tennen gave police and witness accounts of the assault, Dunnings said there is no chance Tennen could be charged with filing a false police report.
“He believed he was assaulted, and he was, in fact, hit,” Dunnings said. “The act that there may have been some erroneous reporting around the events does not make it a false police report.”