Police have said that they do not believe that the attack against Zachary Tennen, a Jewish student from Michigan State University (MSU), was an anti-Semitic hate crime.
Tennen, a sophomore at MSU, was knocked unconscious and had his mouth stapled shut Sunday morning by two men at an off-campus party, in what he believed to be a crime fueled by anti-Semitism.
Prior to the assault, the men allegedly asked Tennen if he was Jewish. Upon hearing him answer in the affirmative, the attackers chanted "Heil Hitler," gave the Nazi salute and proceeded to beat Tennen, until he was no longer conscious.
“They mentioned that they’re Nazis and they’re in the KKK,” Tennen said. “They came up behind me and punched me across the jaw. They knocked me unconscious and I found a staple in me after.”
Police in East Lansing, Mich., however, said Tuesday that they did not believe the attack was a hate crime, and privately told the Tennens that they believed the fight was over a girl.
Police said in a statement released to ABC News that they had interviewed two witnesses and identified a suspect, though the incident was still under investigation.
Tennen’s father, Bruce Tennen, told ABC News affiliate WXYZ that he disagrees with the police, and that his son talked to very few girls at the party and had never had a long-term girlfriend.
“I think this is a heinous crime and it sickens me,” Bruce Tennen said, adding that if police arrest and charge someone just with assault, he will hire his own lawyer and try to pursue an ethnic intimidation or hate crime conviction in federal court.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed outrage over the incident.
"We are horrified by this violent assault and allegations that the student may have been viciously attacked because he was Jewish," said Betsy Kellman, ADL Detroit Regional Director.