Jewish Student’s Mouth Stapled Shut in Possible MSU Hate Crime

Zachary Tennen, a sophomore at Michigan State University, is recovering after he was physically beaten and his mouth was stapled shut in what his family says was a hate crime.

According to CBS Detroit:

He was at a house party on the 500 block of Spartan Avenue early Sunday morning when two men approached him and asked if he was Jewish. When he responded “Yes,” the two men raised their arms into a Nazi salute and said “Heil Hitler” before knocking him unconscious, according to Tennen’s mother, Tina.

It gets worse:

About 20 people reportedly watched as the men proceeded to staple Zachary Tennen’s mouth shut at the lips and gums. His jaw was broken in two places during the attack.

“They knocked me down really hard … and I assumed someone would help me,” Zachary Tennen said in a statement. “But after some guys at the house basically kicked me out, I had to get a cab.”

Tennen underwent surgery Monday night to have his jaw wired shut. He’s recovering at home and hopes to return to school in about a week. His mother has filed a report with the East Lansing Police and also contacted the Anti-Defamation League and the FBI. The university released the following statement:

“Michigan State University’s Student Affairs and Services office has reached out to the family of the student 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.”

After the initial story broke, the Associated Press released an update saying the incident was “not likely a hate crime,” according to a statement from East Lansing Police, and that police had identified a potential suspect. The Detroit Free Press also reports:

According to Michigan Incident Crime Reporting data, there were 21 victims of anti-Jewish hate or bias crimes last year, while there were 18 in 2010 and 20 in 2009.

Absolutely terrifying, completely inexcusable.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at

  • Sam Kay

    I’m sorry, so how did they conclude that this is not a hate crime? They asked if he was Jewish, then they gave a Nazi salute and said “heil Hitler.”

  • houndies

    Nope no hate crime there. Just kids bein rascals. I hope theres a huge lawsuit and lotsa jailtime for those jerks!

  • farnsworth

    It seems to me they concluded that it wasn’t a hate crime because they didn’t want it to be a hate crime.  Too much paperwork, maybe?  It certainly wasn’t based on the facts we see reported here.

  • Guest

    As an aside, how does one not call an ambulance after this kind of assault? Why did he need to take a cab?

  • Duke OfOmnium

    It’s only a *possible* hate crime?  What more would they need, signed and notarized affidavits from the perps stating categorically that they attacked the victim only because he was Jewish?

  • chanceofrainne

    How the EFF is that NOT a hate crime?!

  • Philbert

    I don’t see much in the way of facts. There are allegations, some of them disputed. It’s a bit early to accuse the police of deliberately ignoring evidence.

  • The Moops

    “Nope no hate crime there. Just kids bein rascals.”

    I am assuming this is sarcasm.

  • BinaryStar

    Yes, you can tell that it’s sarcasm by the follow-up statement, “I hope theres a huge lawsuit and lotsa jailtime for those jerks!”

    Reading comprehension isn’t your strong suit, is it, Moops?

  • M. Elaine

    And so many just stood by and let this happen?  Then they kicked him out of the house and he had to call a cab himself?  Yes, I know this is all “allegedly” what happened, but WTF?!  Were they all high and afraid of going on the record?  So many humans, not a sign of a humanity.

  • James

     Because he was thinking rationally about the cost of an ambulance ride vs. a taxi fare?

  • Andrew Brookfield

    To be honest, I don’t believe it was there fault (at least not totally): 

    There are countless accounts of this same thing happening over and over – in the news here in Australia, a whole train-full of people sat by as a man tried to molest a 13-year old and I’m sure they all feel as awful as these guys involved here.

  • Brit

    Right, because police don’t have a reputation of being violent or intolerant towards minorities or anything.

  • Patterrssonn

    Not to mention, why in the hell would the guy make that up.

  • Artor

    Yeah it happens, but how can you figure it wasn’t their fault? Standing by and watching a violent crime take place while doing nothing makes you complicit. Just because it’s scary to step in doesn’t absolve decent human beings from the responsibility to stop shit like this.

  • Andrew Brookfield

    Well what I was getting at was it doesn’t matter how decent a person you are, it’s a psychological phenomenon which nobody can help.

    I’ve had it happen to me once (a minor issue) but my brain just couldn’t process what to do and I did nothing. A surreal experience.

    It takes a really unique person to be able to stand in in situations like these – take it to a grass roots level – you may or may not, but the statistics would say you are very likely not to ask/tell someone who is constantly talking in a cinema to be quiet.

    Imagine that amplified into as serious a situation as this hate crime – you’d think it makes you more likely to stand in because it’s clearly wrong, but it’s in fact the opposite.

    The fault lies with the attackers.

  • Drakk

    Staple your lips together and then try to vocalize the sentence “I need an ambulance”.

  • David Philip Norris

    How in the mother-fucking hell is this not a hate crime??

  • David Philip Norris

    Feeling bad after doing nothing to step in to stop a crime from being committed is hardly punishment enough. In not acting, you are complicit in the crime itself. Silence in this case is should be as good as consent.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    “Hate crimes” should really be classified as acts of terrorism.

  • Inonthekilz

    I don’t believe it was there fault, nor was it here fault. It was asphalt. Hit the road, Jack!

    Knowing a wee bit about American cops and law…I bet the cops would like to make the entire case, get a suspect or two, and tie the case pretty neatly BEFORE they come out with any statement that could give the perps a legality to “walk free” on.

    People don’t trust the cops, but in America…you should. In the face of awesome criminal-tolerant laws and liberals making it very difficult fro them to put eveil people away, they still try hard to do the right thing.
    NOT the left thing…

  • skinnercitycyclist

     Uh, das heißt “in DER verdammten Hölle,” verehrter Freund!

  • TiltedHorizon

     I’ve seen this play out first hand from the opposite side of the fence, it is surreal, like watching events unfold on a TV. People tend to lock up mentally, never really transitioning from the thought: “Someone should do something” to “I am Someone, I should do something”.

    The last time I watch this play out it involved some perv who was sneaking ‘upskirt’ pics with an iPhone in front of a crowd. The look of disgust was clearly on everyone’s face yet I was the only one putting a stop to it. 

  • houndies

    Thanks BinaryStar, for saving me the trouble. ;)

  • Piet

    It is indeed strange. A few years ago I broke up two fighting neighbours. Everybody, including me, was just watching. It took some time before I realised that I indeed could do something. I called the police and I broke up the fight. Only then did everybody else step in. Weird, but it happens.

  • Andrew Brookfield

    Yeah I’d like to think that now I’m aware of the so-called “Bystander Effect” I can now reasonably assuredly step in when I need to.

    Then again though, in an ideal world, I shouldn’t need to step in and these things shouldn’t happen, but there ya go.

  • DavidNorris

    Whoops, thanks for catching that. French is my second language, and it’s been eons since I studied German. I wanted to say “l’enfer putain” but it doesn’t have quite the same ring, what with the neo-Nazi skinheads, as saying it auf Deutsch.

  • Jon Peterson

    No. Terrorism is less descriptive. In judicial terms, hate crimes are a class with proper definition, while terrorism is “anything we think is sufficiently evil enough to warrant really really bad punishment”.

    Terrorism is the act of causing terror. Should we imprison all the people involved in making horror movies? What about parents who show Jurrassic Park to minors? (I had nightmares for two freaking weeks!)

    No, terrorism is not the proper classification. Hate crimes are hate crimes, and the punishments are actually thought out with that exact classification in mind. That is why it exists.

  • Jon Peterson

    Test post for a bug report.

    Test post for a bug report.

    Test post for a bug report.

  • Rich Wilson

    A part of the equation is how many people are there.  Everyone tends to wait for someone else to do something.  If you’re the victim, and can, it helps to direct your request to an individual.  Rather than asking the crowd for help, make eye contact with someone, and ask that person for help.  It changes from a group dynamic to a single person dynamic and it can break the ‘spell’.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    People are motivated by hate to commit crimes all the time, crimes that don’t qualify as “hate crimes.” A jealous husband who murders his wife and the man she’s been sleeping with is likely filled with hate. The reason we have laws regarding acts of violence targeting people for discriminatory reasons is that those acts aren’t just met to hurt that individual but to send a message to an entire community of people, to terrorize them.

    Someone who goes to a movie is not terrorized. They’re consenting to be scared for a limited amount of time knowing that they and their families are not really in danger.

    You’re right to point out that judicially speaking, “terrorism” is not well defined. But you know what it means. And stapling someone’s mouth shut because he’s Jewish is meant to terrorize all of the Jewish community.

  • Rich Wilson

    I was going to say something similar to what Jon did.  The problem with ‘terrorism’ is that it is very poorly defined.  I don’t think it would help to call this an act of terrorism.  I do get the attempt to intimidate a community, but I think terrorism is more political, aimed at government.

    It’s not that I don’t think this is as bad as many acts of terrorism, I just think it’s a semantic muddying.  I wish ‘hate crime’ carried the same ‘oomph’ that ‘terrorism’ does, but I don’t think borrowing the word would help.

  • Blacksheep

    No excuse for standing by and letting something like that happen. We don’t need to be guided by psychological phenomenons.” 

  • Blacksheep

    “…all we have as atheists to believe in is other people…”
    Part of why I’m not an atheist.

  • David Philip Norris

     That’s unfortunate.

  • Edirex

    Awful, but not brave enough to stop it. hmm – Australia, a leader in atheism…

  • julie

    We don’t want to be guided by psychological phenomenons, but we are.
    It’s not like all those people are just standing there thinking, “I really don’t care about helping this guy.” They’re in a mild state of shock, watching the incident play out, not realizing that they are actually a part of what’s going on.
    Someone should have stepped up, but you also can’t really judge those people since you don’t know what they were experiencing. I’m sure they all feel terrible about themselves and don’t understand why they didn’t do anything.

  • Neil Terry

    Really?  Do you live in a western nation?  Then you are directly responsible for years of murder, oppression, and violent regime changes in the Middle East, and any of your victims would be justified in doing a 9/11 on your house and family.  Enjoy your responsibility!

  • Blacksheep

    It’s better for society if certain behaviors, even if they are “natural”  are not excused. I would want to be judged if I stood and watched someone’s mouth stapled shut and didn’t budge. 

  • David Philip Norris

    “Doing a 9/11 on your house and family”? Did you just wish a violent, fiery death on me and my loved ones at the hands of religious extremists? Disagree if you must, but death threats go beyond the pale.

  • Xeon2000

    Yet the bystanders standing there were probably overwhelmingly Christians, just because they’re more common.

    I would personally bet on an atheist to intervene before a theist. I don’t have the link on hand, but a study I read yesterday indicated atheists tended to have a greater sense of altruism, tolerance, and willingness to fight for others.

  • Xeon2000

    Huh… that’s down the road from me. There are some whack job rednecks in the small towns outside the capital area, so that racist attitude doesn’t surprise me. Just relocate some of the more volatile young rednecks to campus, hop them up on some meth, and bam “instant hate crime.”

  • Blacksheep

    I meant that you can’t always cout on people – Christian or Atheist. 

    As to who would intervene first? I have no idea. I like to think it would be Christians, but I could be totally wrong. I do know that as a Christian, if someone was beating you up at a party, I would intervene.

  • fran

    Well, the keystone cops DO exist.  I want to know what they consider a hate crime.  Is that only reserved for homosexuals and muslims?  They were calling out Hitler slogans.  He was all about hate.  What ever happened to “liberty and Justice for all?  The Jewish people have suffered so much since the beginning of time.  Why so much hatred toward jews?  

  • Silo Mowbray

    Pinochet’s secret police agree with you, and will be visiting you at 4am.

  • Silo Mowbray

    The victim obviously couldn’t count on God. God let it happen. For mysterious reasons.

  • Silo Mowbray

    When I was 20 I was one of those sheep-like bystanders that some commentors are vilifying. I watched a 30-ish man get jumped by three 20-something thugs outside a convenience store at night. One of the thugs was sitting on the victim, who was face down on the ground, and pounding the back of his head with a fish bonker. Another thug was gunning the victim in the thigh with his boots. The third thug was screaming profanities at the victim, something like “How do you like that? HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT?” The victim’s girlfriend/wife/female friend was off to the side in total shock, tears streaming down her face.

    I just stood there in complete shock myself, my car keys in my hand. After about 20 seconds of violence, the fish bonker thug leapt off the victim and screamed “LET’S GO” and the three scumbags ran off into the night.

    The convenience store clerk had phoned the police, but the victim refused to speak to them on the phone. He staggered down the sidewalk with his female companion, bloodied and bruised and for all I know suffering from fractures.

    I probably could’ve run at one of the thugs, maybe the guy that was kicking the victim, but I didn’t. All that was going on through my head was “Holy CRAP is this really happening?” By the time I snapped out of it the three pukes had already run off.

    Fast forward to when I was 32 or so. I saw a crowd standing around someone who was lying on his back on the street. His face was bloodied up pretty badly, but I could see him blinking his eyes. I asked if anyone had called 911 for an ambulance. No one had, so I dialed and asked for paramedics. I also found out that the guy was beaten in the face by a waiter who worked at the restaurant right next to where the victim fell. The waiter was right there, watching the victim and looking pleased with himself. I asked, “Has anyone called the police?” and again no one answered, so I called 911 again. Mr. Waiter was glaring at me threateningly, so I said, “What, you going to attack me in front of all of these witnesses?” He disappeared into the restaurant. Cops came, took waiter-man away. Pretty sure I wouldn’t have done any of these things (I would have remained a part of the sheep herd) if I hadn’t learned 12+ years prior that doing something, anything, right at that moment is necessary if victims are to be helped.

  • Alchemist

    Many years ago I came across an elderly gentleman being robbed by three men in their late teens. The poor man was having a seizure, while the little bastards robbed him. Four grown men stoodby while this happened.
    I’m a 5’2″ woman, at the time 20 years old and about 110 pounds. I watched in appalled amazement for about 3-4 seconds before wading in. I stopped the robbery by walloping two of these vermin with my purse and got his money and watch back. I then called the police.
    As I waited for the cops two if the by-standing men finally started to move. They claimed they “just didn’t know what to do”.
    I told them the thing to do now was to hang their heads in shame. It only took one small woman to sort out that situation when grown-ass men stand around with their hands in their pockets.
    I don’t buy into any group dynamic. Sounds like excuse-for-being -selfish bullshit to me.
    The people at that party are culpable in the vicious assault of that poor young Jewish man. They were there, they COULD have stepped in, they COULD have called for the police, they COULD have called for medical help. They CHOSE not to.
    If we expect that criminals be held responsible for their actions, for the CHOICE they make when they rob a store, how can we NOT hold others to account for the CHOICE OF INACTION?
    In WWII thousands of Germans chose to look the other way, they CHOSE not to know, they CHOSE to do nothing and let atrocities happen in their names.
    Now, what happened to that young man wasn’t like being gassed in a shower block, but it was a large step down that slippery slope.
    They CHOSE to let that happen. Just as we choose to let their wrong doing slide if we excuse it with “psychological effects”. Where does it end, these excuses? With certain groups being gassed in showers by other groups? Oh wait, it already has.

  • Alchemist

    What a load if nonsense. As individuals we cannot be held responsible for Years if murder and oppression. We can vote against it, we can speak out about it, but unless we travel to downtown Bagdad, we can’t do much more.
    However, if we see a young man attacked with a staple gun or a 13 year old child sexually assaulted, we CAN do something and we should. If we don’t, then we SHOULD be held accountable.
    Equating holding the party goers in this case accountable, for their inaction in the violent assault right in front of them, to the terrible events of 9/11 would would laughable,were it not so sick and twisted.

  • quawonk

    You can be sure that if the victim was a Christian and the perps were atheist, or Jews, or Muslims it would definitely be a hate crime.

  • quawonk

     Unfortunately, if people were to step in, the run the risk of being sued or charged for assault, etc. So they do nothing. Blame the system, not the people.

  • quawonk

     Also the risk of being stabbed or shot by the attackers.