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Mpls. Man Charged In Death Of Saudi Student In Wis.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A 27-year-old Minneapolis man has been charged with the murder of an international student near the University of Wisconsin–Stout campus last October.

The Hennepin County Attorney's office says Cullen Michael Alex Osburn was arrested Thursday in connection with the death of 24-year-old Hussain Saeed Alnahdi outside of the Toppers Pizza on Menomonie's Main Street on Oct. 30, 2016.

Cullen Osburn
Cullen Osburn (credit: CBS)

The criminal complaint says police were called to the restaurant just after 2 a.m. on a report of a fight outside involving three men.

Police arrived to find Alnahdi unconscious and bleeding from the nose and mouth. Two men were holding him in a seated position and supporting his neck until paramedics arrived.

Related: Hundreds Attend Memorial For Murdered UW-Stout Student

Alnahdi, who was from Saudi Arabia, was taken to a local hospital before being airlifted to Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. He died the next day after undergoing surgery to decrease his brain swelling. His official cause of death was a traumatic brain injury.

The victim's friends told investigators they had been drinking with him on the night of Oct. 30 at their residence until about 1 a.m., when Alnahdi decided to leave to go to some local bars.

Alnahdi's friend, Evan Walters, told police on Nov. 2 that he bumped into Alnahdi outside of Toppers just before the fight. Walters said he was chatting with Alnahdi when a man later identified as Osburn approached them and starting arguing with the victim for an unknown reason. Walters said he tried to separate Alnahdi and Osburn when the defendant pushed him. Walter said he next saw Alnahdi on the ground, but did not witness him getting pushed or hit by Osburn.

Hussain Alnahdi
Hussain Alnahdi (credit: CBS)

A woman named Mariah Hughes, who identified herself as Osburn's sister, met with police a couple days after Alnahdi's death. She told investigators she went to Toppers with Osburn, her other brother and two other men. She said she didn't witness the fight, but was told afterwards that the three other men she was with tried to stop the altercation, and Osburn punched one of them by accident during the fight.

She said Osburn later told her Alnahdi had grabbed his neckless, and Osburn pushed him back.

One of Hughes' friends at the scene, William Hall, told investigators that Osburn did not push Alnahdi, but instead "two pieced" him, which means he punched him twice in the face in rapid succession.

Another witness said she saw Alnahdi put his hands up in the air as Osburn was yelling at him as if to show he did not want to fight. She saw Osburn hit the victim and then went in for another punch, but Alnahdi fell back and hit his head on the side of the building. Osburn than fled west down Main Street.

Police also talked to a witness who said they had an interaction with Osburn at a Kwik Trip about a half-mile south of Toppers just after the fight. He said Osburn had been outside charging his cellphone before he approached his car and asked for a ride to campus. Osburn said he had "just punched somebody who was bleeding out." The witness declined to give him a lift, and said Osburn stated he would "just have to f---ing punch" him as well. The witness told Osburn that his friends were also in the Kwik Trip parking lot and would fight him, so Osburn went back to charging his phone. Surveillance video confirmed Osburn's presence, as did a receipt that showed he had bought a pack of cigarettes there at about the same time.

Investigators say Osburn contacted them on Nov. 2 to say he was scared and was going to cooperate with them, but he needed to get a lawyer before talking with them. He also made it clear that the attack was not motivated by Alnahdi's race. Osburn never contacted police again, and investigators were unable to track him down until Jan. 12, 2017, when he was located and arrested in Minneapolis.

The killing shocked the Stout campus, which student Sarah Mealey describes as a close-knit community.

Vigil Held For Hussain Alnahdi At UW-Stout
Vigil held for Hussain Alnahdi at UW-Stout (credit: CBS)

"It's kind of relieving to find out that it wasn't in fact a student," Mealey said

Hundreds of mourners gathered several days after Alnahdi's death to honor him with a candlelight vigil.

"There's a really low crime rate around, and the campus itself is small enough to where word travels really quickly. So it was surprising that no one had come forward or no one had been identified," said student Collin Schulte. "Tragic. Really sad. It definitely doesn't reflect the student's mindsets around campus."

UW-Stout chancellor Bob Meyer thanked police and the district attorney in a statement released Friday, and said he hoped the arrest brings "some measure of peace" to Alnahdi's family. He also highlighted that the criminal complaint made clear that this was not considered a hate crime.

"The death of Hussain ... has affected everyone on campus, especially our international and minority students who expressed concern for their safety," Meyer said. "At the same time, I have witnessed many people reaching out to these concerned students to assure them that they live and study in a safe environment. I hope these efforts to help all students feel safe on campus and in the community continues."

Osburn has an extensive criminal history, including felony convictions for domestic assault and violating an order for protection. Besides being charged with Alnahdi's murder, he also faces a battery charge.

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