Authorities investigating attack of Ph.D. student near UW-Madison campus; MPD shares suspect photos

Police say they have no evidence the attack was racially motivated, but members of the campus' Asian community remain unsettled

MADISON, Wis. — Authorities with the Madison Police Department and UW-Madison are investigating an alleged attack on a fifth-year doctoral student just blocks off of the university’s campus.

MPD officials shared an incident report late Friday morning saying the victim was punched by a group of men who went on to kick and punch him while he was on the ground around 10:15 p.m. Tuesday. The incident happened on Gilman Street near the intersection with University Avenue.

According to the report, the attack was the third of its kind to happen in the downtown area within the past two weeks. Detectives said they believe the same group of people might be responsible for all three.

The victim, an international student from China, according to the university, reportedly told police the suspects didn’t take anything from him or say anything to him during the incident.

Police added that detectives don’t have any evidence as of Friday morning that leads them to believe the attack was racially motivated.

Downtown Attack Suspect Photo 2

Courtesy of the Madison Police Department

Despite that, Luhang Sun, whose tweet about the incident drew attention from the university and hundreds of others, believes the attack was “definitely something related to Asian hate crime.”

“We definitely need our university, our city, and the American society to know that,” Sun told News 3 Now.

Reports of the Tuesday night attack, which have circulated widely on social media among Ph.D. students at the university, claim the student was attacked by five people.

Sun tweeted pictures of the victim’s wounds, which appear to show multiple injuries to the victim’s head and face.

In a statement shared online Thursday, UW-Madison officials said they’re “deeply concerned by these reports,” adding that the university “is committed to making our campus and nearby downtown areas safe for all.”

The university released an updated statement Friday.

“While we don’t have evidence these incidents were motivated by race, we know that each time incidents like these occur, it has an impact on the well-being of all our students, and particularly our Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American students, faculty, and staff, and other communities of color,” it read in part. “We are committed to creating a safe community at UW–Madison where everyone feels they belong, and we know we have more work to do.”

UWPD spokesperson Marc Lovicott said in an emailed statement to News 3 Now on Friday that the department is aware of the attacks, saying that the MPD is leading the investigation because the incident happened off-campus.

Regardless of whether the incident was racially motivated, the violence is unacceptable, Assistant Madison Police Chief Brian Austin said.

“Even if we don’t believe that this is a hate crime… it is hateful and violent behavior to residents to have done nothing more than walk one place to another,” Austin said.

RELATED: UW international students lead ‘Stop Asian Hate’ march

Sun, meanwhile, helped organize a Stop Asian Hate rally Friday evening at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Organizers marched from the Capitol to Library Mall.

While Sun didn’t know the victim, she and other organizers said they needed to take action.

“We feel really angry and we think we need to do something to get more attention to this very bad Asian hate crime,” she said.

Anyone with information about the three incidents is asked to call Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 608-266-6014 or visit Tips that lead to an arrest may qualify for a reward.