Multiple agencies investigating possible hate crime against UNM student

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A University of New Mexico student said he was beaten so badly he had to be hospitalized, all because he is Jewish. Now, the Albuquerque Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and the FBI are involved. While this is still an ongoing investigation, the DA’s Office said they are extremely concerned about the possibility that this was motivated by anti-Semitism.

A UNM student said he was attacked, punched, and kicked at a party at an apartment at The View, formerly known as The Cottages, Friday night. According to the incident report, it is believed to be motivated by hate. Roni Saponar said he was wearing a shirt that said “JUST JEW IT” that night; He said he is Jewish. The report stated that Saponar began walking to the restroom before being pushed and hit from behind. Approximately six males began punching and kicking him while using several anti-Semitic slurs according to the report.

The report also said that Saponar is Israeli and was informed by a friend that the males who battered him were Palestinian and took issue with his religious beliefs. The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that aims to stop anti-Semitism, has been in touch with Saponar and his family.

“It is of grave concern to us when a Jewish individual is targeted with hate whether it be harassment or some kind of physical assault because of that person’s identity, Jewish identity,” Jeremy Shaver with ADL said.

The Bernalillo County’s DA’s Office said it is too soon to definitively say this is a hate crime. Rather, they are investigating it as a potential hate crime. So far, no one has been charged, but they have identified persons of interest. The DA’s Office said APD is investigating, and they have reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.

Frank Fisher with the Albuquerque FBI Division said they are monitoring the case and will get involved if the need arises. “We have agents who are specially trained to investigate hate crimes,” Fisher said. “They would get involved if necessary and bring in people to spare no resource and leave no rock unturned.”

The report said Saponar was hospitalized overnight with internal bleeding in his head. “If the facts, in this case, do demonstrate the student was targeted because of his Jewish identity, it should be treated as a hate crime and prosecuted as such,” Shaver said.

The report said that they also stole Saponar’s Air Max shoes and Apple Watch. The Albuquerque FBI said in 2018, there were 28 reports of hate crimes in New Mexico. That number nearly doubled in 2019. They don’t have the data yet for 2020. The ADL said this is the first anti-Semitic incident in New Mexico reported to them this year. There were eight reported incidents last year.

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