In the early hours of Oct. 30, 2016, Hussain Saeed Alnahdi—a Saudi Arabian national and student at the University of Wisconsin–Stout—was fatally assaulted outside of Topper’s Pizza on the 400 block of Main Street in Menomonie, according to the Menomonie Police Department. Mr. Alnahdi was a 24-year-old who came to Menomonie from Saudi Arabia to study English and pursue a degree in Business Administration
The police began their investigation with little success. Menomonie Police Chief Eric Atkinson announced on Nov. 2 that a suspect had yet to be identified.
“The suspect was only described by witnesses as a Caucasian male approximately 6 feet tall… [and] was seen running away westbound down Main Street Menomonie,” he said.
Chief Atkinson described the events that transpired after the assault at a press conference on Nov. 1.
“Mr. Alnahdi was provided medical attention by the Menomonie Fire Department. He was subsequently taken to the Lutheran Mayo hospital in Eau Claire to receive medical treatment. Mr. Alnahdi then passed away at Lutheran Mayo on Oct. 31, 2016.”
Chief Atkinson continued, “On Nov. 1, 2016, Mr. Alnahdi was taken to the University of Wisconsin Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in Madison for a forensic autopsy exam.”
The death of Mr. Alnahdi reverberated throughout the community. On Nov. 3, students, faculty and townspeople alike united for a memorial service in his memory. The service was attended by approximately 1000 students and concluded with a candlelight vigil. Fellow UW–Stout student Omar Alkohmos started off the vigil with a prayer for the deceased.
UW–Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer spoke at the vigil and shared the experiences he had with meeting Mr. Alnahdi’s friends across campus over the past few days.
“Hussain was well-known and loved,” said Chancellor Meyer, “a bright, passionate young man with a promising future.”
“We have been deluged by expressions of sympathy and offers of help from across the campus and the Menomonie community,” Chancellor Meyer continued.
The impact of this tragedy went beyond the UW–Stout Campus. University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross was in attendance at the memorial and passed along his condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Alnahdi on behalf of the entire UW System.
The memorial service was livened by recollections of Mr. Alnahdi’s spirit and his ability to brighten the lives of people around him, regardless of whether he knew them or not. President Cross echoed this sentiment.
“What a wonderful smile,” he said, “how could you not want to be with someone like that?”
The Dean of Students at UW–Stout, Sandi Duex, was in attendance at the memorial service as well. She talked about how a tragedy like this can bring out the best in a community.
“Since Sunday, I feel like I’ve experienced what is the worst of our world and then what is the best of our world,” she said. After meeting with students close to Mr. Alnahdi, she went on to talk about how to move forward from this tragedy.
“I left filled with such hope about where we go from here and what role models our students are [by bringing] the best of us forward, and that is the message that I think we need to have today… It is in the example we’ve seen of Hussain’s family and friends that we will move forward.”
One by one, those closest to Mr. Alnahdi took time during the memorial to speak about him in loving terms. Among those speaking was his good friend and roommate, Tommy Hutson.
“Whether it be his obnoxious laugh or persistent teasing, Hussain knew how to get me riled up. Even though I hated it at the time, I believe these are the things I will miss the most,” said Hutson. “I would do anything to hear that laugh one more time.”
Another former roommate, Lucas Kroells, told a story of Hussain that showed the humor and joy Hussain would bring to the lives of those around him.
“Hussain had this special energy about him… I recall a time when I was sitting in my room downstairs, I was home alone and I had my bedroom door shut and I was sulking about something that ticked me off that day, and I heard the front door open and Hussain walked in. I sat there sulking to myself still, and I hear Hussain go, ‘Hello?’ I did not respond… and then a few moments later he followed with, ‘It’s me,’ and a few other verses from his favorite Adele song. Without even trying and not having any idea, he just instantly brightened my day, turned it from the worst day ever to the best day.”
Hussain’s impact was felt further than just the friends he kept and roommates he lived with. Faculty at UW–Stout also gave testimony on Mr. Alnahdi’s character; Pamela Onchuck, a tutor for the ESL program here at Stout spoke at the memorial, saying, “You can’t see Hussain every day without learning to love him.”
An equally powerful moment from the memorial came from a video recording by Hussain’s brother, Hamad Alnahdi, in Saudi Arabia. According to Hamad, Hussain would often speak of the overwhelming support that came from his Stout peers.
“He said they became like my family there, friends,” his brother said. Hamad also thanked the university faculty, administrative staff and students for helping him in his last year of learning English. But he also pleaded that those who possess additional information on the incident should come forward; hoping that doing such a thing would bring justice to his brother’s case.
As of Sunday, Nov. 6, the investigation is still ongoing. The Menomonie Police Department released more information regarding their investigation on Friday, Nov. 4, reporting they were working with multiple investigative bodies to expedite their investigation.
“Currently, we are implementing all available resources to investigate the incoming leads and video surveillance that has been acquired,” Chief Atkinson said in a press release.
“To bolster our investigative team, we have partnered with the University of Wisconsin–Stout Police Department and the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office,” said Chief Atkinson. “We have also been in consultation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
A vigil has been created in remembrance of Hussain, located right outside of the Toppers’ where the assault took place. The corner consists of candles, flowers, photos and other bits of memories of Hussain. The whole event has left this campus shaken, but in his memory we should maintain a positive outlook. Hussain was loved by many, and the campus will be a different place without him. From all of us here at Stoutonia, we send our deepest condolences to his friends and family. May he rest in paradise.