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BY Francis Akhalbey, 11:00am June 20, 2024,

Officers say a 42-year-old man punched a sixth-grader because of the color of his skin

Lorenzo Johnson was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1997 -- Photo Credit: sergeitokmakov

A 42-year-old White man from Washington State is facing hate crime and assault charges after he allegedly punched and injured an 11-year-old Black student who was returning from a field trip.

According to The Bellingham Herald, the Whatcom Middle School sixth-grader was with other students when Paul Jonathan Bittner attacked him on June 12. Bittner is said to have seemingly attacked the Black juvenile because of the color of his skin. The 11-year-old boy suffered a chipped tooth from the attack, a probable cause statement that was filed in Whatcom County Superior Court revealed.

Bittner has since been arrested and charged with second-degree assault and malicious harassment. The latter charge is a hate crime. The 42-year-old’s bail was also set at $500,000.

In an interview with the news outlet, Bellingham Police spokeswoman Megan Peters said the students were passing by the police station when the boy was attacked. The probable course statement also revealed that a surveillance camera installed at the police station captured the assault.

Court documents stated that Bittner approached the students while they were walking in an area close to the police station. Peters told The Herald that the Black student was shoved by Bittner before the suspect said, “Are you gonna talk to a white man like that?” Bittner then proceeded to punch the victim in the face.

“School staff witnessed the assault, intervened, and summoned law enforcement by both calling (911) and coming to the front door of (the police station). Staff also secured the child and rushed him away from the assailant,” Peters said in an email to the news outlet.

Bittner was arrested not too far from the scene. Peters and court documents said Bittner, however, hurled more racial slurs after police handcuffed him and put him in a patrol car.

“I want to call out the swift and thoughtful response of our teachers and students, who were able to quickly care for the student who was attacked and ensure the safety of the rest of our students,” Whatcom Middle School Principal Mischelle Darragh said.

“We will have additional counseling support available to all students as long as it’s needed. Today, sixth graders will be concluding the day with a classroom circle where students can share their feelings and concerns,” she added.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 20, 2024

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