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Bethlehem Area

UPDATE: Police seek 2 suspects in racially-motivated assault of Lehigh University student

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Bethlehem police are leading the investigation with cooperation from Lehigh University police, according to the university president.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - City police are investigating a racially-motivated assault against a Black Lehigh University student, according to police and the university president.

Two white assailants directed racial epithets at the victim and one of them hit the student in the face, police said.

  • A Black student was attacked, and the assailants directed racial epithets at the victim
  • Lehigh University President Joseph Helble addressed the incident in a statement Saturday evening
  • The extent of the victim's injuries was not specified but Helble said the student is 'recovering'

Lehigh University President Joseph Helble issued a statement Saturday night to staff, students and the Lehigh community.
The reported assault occurred around 3 a.m. Saturday as the 22-year-old victim walked off-campus near South New and Morton streets, police said Sunday in a Facebook post.

A suspect struck the victim in the face, causing a cut and swelling to his lip, police said.

Police said an unidentified man had called out to the victim "using an offensive and malicious statement concerning the victim’s race."

After that, he and another man confronted the victim before one of the men hit him, police said.

Helble's statement said he learned of the assault Saturday from Lehigh police, who are working with city police.

"This serious and disturbing incident leaves our entire community shaken," Helble said. "Lehigh police and staff are in contact with the student, who is recovering, and are working closely with Bethlehem police, the lead investigative agency."

"This serious and disturbing incident leaves our entire community shaken."
Joseph Helble, Lehigh University President

"Many will understandably feel unsettled following this incident," Helble continued. "I want to assure all of our students, especially our students of color, of our commitment to your safety and well-being.

"I am committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for you. Racism, hate, verbal and physical violence have no place at Lehigh. As a community that welcomes and supports every member, this is a stark reminder that in a challenging world we have work to do, and it is up to all of us to stand up and speak out."

According to police, the victim described the person who hit him as a white male, about 20 to 25 years old. He was 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 with dark hair, police said.

Word of the assault came on a busy weekend at Lehigh. The annual rivalry football game with Lafayette College was held Saturday afternoon at Lafayette. The game ended with a Lehigh defeat and a skirmish among players at midfield.

Helble said he intends to keep the campus community updated on the investigation into the off-campus assault.

"As we grapple with the impact of this incident as a community, I encourage students, faculty and staff who feel unsafe or are struggling in light of this information to seek support," he said.

Bethlehem police are asking anyone with information or who may have witnessed the assault to call 610-865-7000 or email bethlehempolice@bethlehem-pa.gov.

They described it as an assault and ethnic intimidation case.