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Police investigating the death of a Saudi student in a Wisconsin college town want to question anyone who could have seen the attack as they look for additional witnesses.
Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, 24, a Saudi student attending the University of Wisconsin-Stout, was brutally beaten and left bloodied near Toppers Pizza parlor on a relatively crowded street early Sunday morning in downtown Menomonie around 2 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) on Sunday, according to police. Alnahdi, died on Monday after he was seriously injured in the attack
The town's police authorities investigating the Saudi student's death said they are not dismissing the possibility that this was a hate crime.
The attack took place on a typical weekend in the college town as students flooded the streets as bars closed.
“I would assume a decent amount of people saw it,” Alex Van Keulen, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout who was at the pizza parlor 40 minutes after the attack, told NBC News. “It was Halloween. It’s definitely something that’s been buzzed and talked about on campus.”
Police are searching for witnesses who may have seen the attack. One witness originally told police about a six feet tall white male who fled the scene on foot.
Authorities are also reviewing security camera video footage from nearby establishments to determine who else might have seen the attack, Commander Todd Swartz of the Menomonie Police Department told NBC News.
"There was quite a bit of pedestrian traffic in and around the area at the time of the assault,” he said.
Investigators are treating the incident as a homicide, the Menomonie Police Department said in a statement issued Monday.
“It is still not being treated as a hate crime because we can’t confirm that it was , we don’t know motivation of the offender," Swartz told NBC News on Wednesday.
Erik Atkinson, the town's chief of police, said authorities will “not dismiss that this could be a hate crime”.
The city of Menomonie and University of Wisconsin-Stout are offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the attack. The Council on American-Islamic Relations in neighboring Minnesota is adding an additional $5000 to the reward, the organization told NBC News.
“It is absolutely essential that we use all of our resources to find the person responsible for Hussain’s death,” Chancellor Bob Meyer said in a statement. “Many people are looking for ways to help the police find the assailant, and we hope this fund will generate the information needed to lead to an arrest and conviction.”
Those who knew him best are organizing a memorial for Alnahdi on Thursday, Meyer said.
“They are amazing and they are a source of inspiration and strength to our community,” he said.
As for those who are left behind to mourn him, Alnahdi's friends are wrestling with a growing sense of unease in a town they had come to think of as a home away from home.
"For me I’m not, but a lot of my friends, yes (they) are afraid,” Omar Alkohmos said at the press conference. "Our family is calling and saying we are allowed to go from house to the class and class to your house."
Alkohmos, a student from Saudi Arabia, was Alnahdi's first English interpreter when he arrived on campus. The two became friends, a relationship that brought him to tears as he remembered a life lost on Wednesday.
International students hailing from 42 nations make up 4 percent of the University of Wisconsin Stout's population. The school has 140 students from Saudi Arabia.
Those students want answers.
"We need answers but we are still looking to police department to get answers. It's hard, I cannot say anything but that," Alkohmos said tearing up.