Iowa City police investigating attack on Naperville teen as hate crime

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Police in Iowa City, Iowa, are investigating an attack on a 19-year-old man from southwest suburban Naperville as a possible hate crime. (WLS)

Police in Iowa City, Iowa, are investigating an attack on a 19-year-old man from west suburban Naperville as a possible hate crime.

Investigators said Marcus Owens, who enrolled as a business major at the University of Iowa after graduating from Waubonsie Valley High School, told police he was assaulted in an alley in the 200-block of Iowa Avenue between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on April 30.

The teen said he had just stepped out of an off-campus pub when three white men yelled the n-word and started punching him.

"I see this guy coming towards me aggressively, and I step back and say, 'Hey man, what's up? I don't want any problems,'" Marcus Owens said.

Someone yelled at the attackers, who ran away.

"It feels like a nightmare, feels like a dream. I still can't believe it happened," Marcus Owens said.

"You never want to see your kid look that way or in any kind of pain because of ignorance," father Mel Owens said.

Marcus Owens has a split lip, broken teeth and a few other cuts and bruises. Police said he sought treatment at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for non-life-threatening injuries and was released.

Police said they developed suspect information Tuesday. The victim described the suspects as three white men, of average height, between the ages of 19 and 22.

On Monday evening, the Owens family reported the incident to Iowa City police. But Mel Owens says there was no followup from police until Tuesday evening after ABC7 Eyewitness News broke the story.

Marcus Owens says he has no plans to leave the University of Iowa. But other students are directing their frustration at the school for not informing them of the attack. University students took to social media to question why they found out about the incident through the media and not the university. They went on Twitter with the hashtag #ExplainIowa.

But university officials say they, too, learned about the incident from the media and issued a campus alert Wednesday after contacting Iowa City police for more information. They also said Owens first contacted campus police, who told him to report the incident to the city.

"We try not to re-victimize the victim. If we know they're gonna tell their story to Iowa City, we try not to put them through that more than necessary," said Lucy Wiederholt, University of Iowa.

The Owens family met with the president of the university Wednesday. They say he has shown strong leadership, even arranging dental care for Marcus Owens. As police are trying to zero in on suspects, the school says if any students are responsible, they will likely face suspension or expulsion.

"You did not know them. They did not know you. There was no altercation. You simply yelled out racial epithets and attacked," uncle Darrell Owens said.

No one has been arrested. Anyone with information regarding this incident should call Iowa City police at 319-356-5276.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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