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St. Paul police investigating Metro State attack as hate crime

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Metropolitan State University
The New Main building on the St. Paul campus of Metropolitan State University.
Tim Post | MPR News file

St. Paul police are investigating Wednesday's assault of a Metropolitan State University employee as a potential hate crime.

"The victim was targeted by the suspect due to an appearance or his possible ethnic origin," said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a police spokesperson. 

The suspect is a white adult male and police are still searching for him, Ernster said. 

The staffer was resting outside the New Main building on Metro State's campus a few blocks east of downtown St. Paul on Wednesday afternoon when the suspect allegedly approached him and asked, "what are you doing in my country?"

"Then suddenly, without provocation, he struck the victim with a closed fist in the head," Ernster said. 

The suspect walked away from the scene toward the Swede Hollow park, Ernster said. The victim followed for a while but eventually lost track of the suspect. 

The victim sustained a small cut under his eye and some swelling, Ernster said, noting that he went to the hospital under his own power.

Metro State is withholding the victim's identity, but said he is on the university's IT staff, according to Tracy Hatch, vice president for finance and operations. 

He has been released from the hospital and is resting at home, Hatch said. 

"We don't take this lightly," she said, "but at the same time we believe we're able to keep the community safe." 

Ernster said St. Paul police will have an increased presence around Metro State for the "foreseeable future." 

Any assault is concerning, he said, but "it's even more concerning when someone is assaulted due to their ethnicity."

MPR News reporter Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report.