Prosecutors have filed murder and battery charges against a Minneapolis man who allegedly killed Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, a 24-year-old college student, during a fight last October outside Toppers Pizza in Menomonie, Wis.
Alnahdi’s death stirred international controversy, in part due to suspicions that his being from Saudi Arabia motivated his alleged attacker, 27-year-old Cullen Osburn. Within days of the killing, the Consulate of Saudi Arabia appointed a lawyer and dispatched its head of legal affairs to help monitor the case and handle legal concerns.
The killing has also caused great distress at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where Alnahdi was studying.
“I hope this arrest brings some measure of peace and comfort to Hussain’s family in Saudi Arabia,” said UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer in a statement Friday. “They have gone through a living nightmare, and our hearts and prayers continue to go out to them.”
Osburn, however, was adamant in telling investigators that the fight “was not a result of anybody’s race,” according to the criminal complaint, and the charges and witness accounts make no reference to racial bias.
It’s unclear how the Oct. 30 fight started.
Osburn is charged with felony murder and battery causing bodily harm. According to the complaint:
Alnahdi’s roommates told police they were drinking and at around 1 a.m., Alnahdi said he was going to some bars in the area.
About an hour later, a friend spotted him smoking a cigarette outside Toppers and walked over to talk with him. A stranger, later identified as Osburn, began arguing with Alnahdi — though the friend couldn’t figure out what about, he told police. The friend tried to separate the two, but Osburn pushed him away, and when he looked back Alnahdi was falling to the ground. The friend responded with a few punches at Osburn, but he wasn’t sure if they connected, and rushed to help Alnahdi.
Osburn’s brother saw the fight from inside Toppers, where he was waiting for a pizza. He ran outside and saw two men pushing Osburn, he said later. He saw Osburn punch Alnahdi after Alnahdi ripped off Osburn’s chain necklace. Alnahdi fell to the ground and Osburn took off running.
Another witness, who was happening by Toppers and had no affiliation with either Osburn or Alnahdi, reported hearing Osburn ask Alnahdi to repeat something he’d said, and then she witnessed Alnahdi throwing his hands in the air “to indicate he didn’t want a problem,” the complaint said. She saw Osburn hit him and Alnahdi go head first into the side of the building. Then she saw Osburn take off.
A few minutes later, Osburn bought a pack of cigarettes at a nearby Kwik Trip. A young man in town for a fraternity party pulled into the convenience store parking lot, and a stranger fitting Osburn’s description approached him saying that “he had just punched somebody who was bleeding out” and needed a ride back to campus, the witness later told police.
The witness said he did not know his way around, and the man told him he was going to punch him, too. The driver motioned to his friends in the parking lot and the stranger walked away, according to the criminal complaint.
Meanwhile, back at Toppers, Alnahdi was unconscious and blood spilled out of his nose and mouth, while those still on scene tried to attend to him with napkins. He was transported to the Mayo Clinic Health System in Menomonie and later airlifted to Mayo Eau Claire.
Alnahdi had a 10-centimeter fracture in his skull. He went into brain surgery the next day, but his condition continued to deteriorate and he died of a traumatic brain injury later that day.
A couple of days later, Osburn called police and said he was “very scared” and wanted to cooperate, but he needed to get an attorney first. He later said he was going to call back to schedule an interview, but police didn’t hear back from him.
The Dunn County District attorney’s office filed charges Thursday, and Osburn was arrested in Minneapolis the same day. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court.