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Man charged in connection to Metro State campus assault

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Metropolitan State University
Metropolitan State University's New Main on the college's St. Paul campus.
Tim Post for MPR News File
Steven Craig Parker
Steven Craig Parker
Courtesy of Ramsey County Attorney's Office

Updated: 4:02 p.m. | Posted: 3:23 p.m.

Prosecutors have charged a 59-year-old St. Paul man with a racially motivated assault on a Metropolitan State University employee.

Steven Parker faces a third-degree assault charge. Parker also was charged with simple robbery in connection with an earlier incident, in which he also allegedly made racist comments to a Walgreens manager who said Parker was engaged in shoplifting.  After the man was kicked and punched by Parker and another man for about a minute, he discovered his cellphone was no longer in his hand, according to court documents.

Investigators said store video and witness accounts backed up the victim's statement in the earlier attack. Both incidents took place within about an hour of each other the afternoon of June 19. 

St. Paul Police Department Sgt. Mike Ernster said police arrested Parker on Thursday after questioning him about the prior robbery.

The campus incident happened at the school's New Main building on 7th Street, just outside downtown St. Paul, according to the complaint.

"An employee of the university was out sitting on some steps outside on the campus when he was approached from behind and asked questions about his nationality, country-of-origin-type questions and was suddenly punched by the suspect in this case," Ernster said.

Officers encountered Parker as he drank from an open bottle of alcohol in downtown St. Paul.

University officials say they're relieved police have made an arrest.

Vice President for Finance and Operations Tracy Hatch said the school will continue to try to improve safety and inclusion efforts even though someone has been arrested.

"We really take seriously our commitment to the community and an open and inclusive environment that is welcoming to all whether they are directly connected to the university or not," she said.

Hatch didn't know if Parker has ties to the university and did not release information about the employee who was hurt.