A middle schooler in Bellingham was allegedly attacked because he is black

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — A middle school field trip took a horrific turn in Bellingham. Police say this week a 6th grade student became the victim of a hate crime.

An 11-year-old boy was punched in the face because of his race.

“Absolutely a hate crime,” says Chief of Police, Rebecca Mertzig.

Court documents allege that 42-year-old Paul Jonathan Bittner, approached a group of 6th graders who were walking back to Whatcom Middle School following a field trip.

Police say Bittner approached a black student, punched him in the face, and shoved him. The attack chipped the boy’s tooth.

Witnesses say Bittner, who is white, then screamed ‘Are you gonna talk to a white man like that?’ to the student, before running off.

“This gentleman unprovoked, attacked a child for his race,” says Chief Mertzig, who tells KIRO 7 she is angry and heartbroken after learning of the attack.

The incident happened down the street from the Bellingham Police Department. Police say a teacher chased after the suspect, before he was arrested by police.

Chief Mertzig says the suspect continued to make racially-charged remarks following his arrest.

Bittner was arraigned on Thursday afternoon, facing charges of Assault of a Minor, as well as Malicious Harassment, which is a hate crime. His bail is set at $500,000.

Chief Mertzig tells KIRO 7, hate has no place in Bellingham.

“Our community is very inclusive, and this is something we’re not gonna tolerate,” says Chief Mertzig.

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