East Lansing police say Jewish religion not a factor in attack on student

Published: Sunday, Sept. 2 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

This undated photo provided by Bruce Tennen shows Zachary Tennen. Police say an attack on the Michigan State University student at an off-campus party is not being investigated as a hate crime.

Associated Press

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DETROIT — A university student's Jewish religion was not a factor in an assault at an off-campus party, police said Wednesday, a day after the 19-year-old man claimed he was hit in the jaw as a victim of "religious hatred."

There is no dispute that Zach Tennen was seriously injured early Sunday. But witnesses interviewed by detectives have not confirmed Tennen's account that he was attacked after revealing he's Jewish, East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy said.

Police also have no evidence that Tennen's mouth was stapled, as he maintains, Murphy said.

"There's a lot more to it than what is on the surface," Murphy told The Associated Press. "This came out early as being reported as a hate crime. It now appears after we've talked to many people who were at this party — and most importantly two witnesses who saw the actual assault — it doesn't appear that religion was the reason he was assaulted."

Tennen is recovering from jaw surgery. His father, Bruce Tennen, said the police department's latest "assertions sicken us."

Tennen was punched while in the front yard of a Michigan home while 40 people partied in the back yard. The Michigan State student said he was punched and had his mouth stapled after telling two men that he's Jewish.

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