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As Scrutiny Mounts, a Small Town Police Force Scours for Leads in Saudi Student’s Death

Menomonie, Wisconsin—The Menomonie Police Department is now consulting with the FBI in the investigation into the brutal assault and death of a Saudi student in this small college town.

For authorities in Menomonie, population: 16, 264, the death of Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, 24, a Saudi student studying at the University of Wisconsin-Stout who was brutally beaten and left bloodied in the street, is the highest profile case to hit the local police department in well over a decade.

And this force of 27 sworn officers is starkly aware that national and international media, officials from the U.S. and Saudi governments and the loved ones who have entrusted their college-aged students to the care of local authorities are watching the investigations' progress.

Image: Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, a student at University of Wisconsin-Stout, died after a weekend assault
Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, a student at University of Wisconsin-Stout, died after a weekend assault. Courtesy Tommy Hutson

It's been less than a week since Alnahdi died from severe injuries suffered during the attack.

Read More: A Saudi Student's Brutal Killing Shakes a Small Wisconsin Town

Since then, to the local authorities, it has felt as if the world has descended upon the quiet college town. The university campus has been swarmed with reporters and news trucks are frequently parked along the streets.

Image: Menomonie Police Department
Menomonie Police Department in Menomonie Wisconsin Safia Samee Ali

There are still many unanswered questions.

"Was it a fight? Was it an assault from a group? One guy?" Hussain Alnahdi's brother, Hamdan, pleaded in an emotional video message during a vigil for his murdered brother on Thursday night.

A press release issued on Friday said the police department is "not able to confirm if Hussain Alnahdi's death was a hate crime" but will "not dismiss the possibility until MPD has concluded the investigation."

What they don't know, despite questioning witnesses and scrutinizing surveillance footage, is who saw Alnahdi being beaten as bars closed and students flooded the streets.

Saudi Student Beaten to Death in Wisconsin 1:11

With the exception of a sole witness who allegedly saw a white male about 6 feet tall fleeing on foot, police say they can't confirm whether anyone else credible has come forward.

The case remains unsolved.

"This is a relatively safe community," Swartz told NBC News.

It is also a community, he feels, that doesn't have a history of hate.

"In the last 10 years I can recall maybe one incident that occurred involving a hate crime," he said.

In 2014 two white men from Menomonie who followed and then threatened two African-American men using racial slurs. The two men were convicted, with one being charged with a hate crime.

Image: Menomonie Police Department
Menomonie Police Department in Menomonie Wisconsin. Safia Samee Ali

The Alnahdi case is different, though and investigators say they are working around the clock to solve a crime that has reach thousands of miles away.

The Menomonie Police Department sits isolated in the middle of a farm field on the eastern edges of town. The department shares its tight confines with the sheriff's office, local courts, and the county jail. Many of the officers on the force have been there for decades.

They are now hunkering down to piece together what happened to Alnahdi that night.

Wisconsin Saudi Student After Deadly Attack: Most of My Friends are Afraid 2:00

Efforts have involved scouring surveillance videos, canvassing local businesses, and speaking with a slew of individuals who have any connection to the victim or the scene.

And they have repeatedly appealed to the local community to come forward with any information, any leads, and any tips.

All "available resources," including consulting with the FBI, are being "implemented" for this investigation, according a press release on Friday.

Its all part of a methodical system, Swartz said. It is one that involves a combination of efficiency and cautiousness. "We don't want to jump the gun."

The Department of Justice and the FBI has not formally entered their territory— for now.

"We are aware of the death of Hussain Alnahdi in Menomonie, Wisconsin, and are in regular contact with local authorities. If in the course of the local investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate," the agencies said in a joint statement to NBC News.

In the meantime, the search continues.