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17-year-old faces felony charges in race-charged assault

WILLMAR -- A 17-year-old Willmar teen pleaded not guilty Monday to three felony charges of second- and third-degree assault and second-degree riot for allegedly beating a man with a baseball bat.

Troy Anthony Hernandez also faces a misdemeanor assault charge in Kandiyohi County District Court. He was ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim and others involved in the incident and abide by a curfew.

Hernandez's next appearance is Sept. 21. Felony charges against 16- and 17-year-olds are public record.

According to the petition, Willmar police were called around 6 a.m. Aug. 28 to the 400 block of Charlotte Street Southeast regarding a fight between a group of Somalis and Hispanics. Several 911 calls were received with callers advising that bats, fire extinguishers and metal poles were being used in the fight.

Several witnesses told officers the alleged victim had come after Hernandez, who said he'd been hit in the back of the head and neck with a two-by-four. Hernandez, however, suffered no marks, bruises, scrapes or scratches.

Witnesses also told officers a group of 10 to 15 Somali men had come out of the house with intent to assault them.

An officer then went to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar, where the alleged victim was receiving treatment. He was bleeding from the mouth and nose, and had suffered an injury on the back of his head.

He said several juvenile Hispanic males in the neighborhood had been using racial slurs and verbal abuse for the entire summer. He said he was in a group that had gone outside and met a Hispanic group with weapons, including a bat, wrench and fire extinguisher. He said one of the Somalis went back into another home to get a metal weight bar as a means to intimidate the group.

Another witness said the alleged victim was struck in the head and knocked unconscious, and then struck two more times with a baseball bat. Hernandez was later identified from a photo lineup as the initial aggressor.

The alleged victim was later transported to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and may require reconstructive surgery.

Hernandez was interviewed and said one of the Somalis hit him in the side with a baseball bat. He allegedly admitted to punching someone in the face, but said he never used an object to strike anyone.

Another witness who lives in the area reported being awakened by the incident and observing a Somali man swinging a bat or wooden object. The witness also reported seeing a Hispanic hit a Somali with a baseball bat. The witness identified Hernandez as the person who hit the Somali with the bat.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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