ST. CLOUD, Minn. (FOX 9) - A 20-year-old St. Cloud State University wrestler has been charged in connection to an assault that left another student seriously injured in St. Cloud earlier this month.
Ezayah Oropeza of Burnsville is charged with third-degree felony assault for allegedly assaulting another student early in the morning on Sept. 18. The SCSU sophomore has been suspended from the wrestling team, the university said in a statement.
According to the charges, St. Cloud police responded to a 911 call for an unconscious man lying outside a house on the 700 block of 7th Avenue South. The caller said her son had seen the man being punched repeatedly and knocked unconscious.
Officers found the victim inside the house with his roommates. He was bleeding heavily from multiple injuries to his face and showed signs of having been unconscious. He was taken to the hospital.
Other officers found Oropeza and a 20-year-old woman walking near the area. The child who witnessed the assault identified Oropeza as the man who punched the victim.
Oropeza admitted to punching the victim. He said the victim came out of the house and started yelling at him and the woman. He claimed they tried to walk away, but the victim continued to follow them so he hit him.
Officers briefly detained Oropeza and the woman he was with following the incident, but later released them while they investigated his self-defense claim.
The victim later contacted police to tell them his side of the story. The charges say he told investigators he returned home to his house that night and heard a woman screaming. He walked around to the front of his house and yelled out "Hey, is everything all right?" as Oropeza and the woman were near the corner under a street sign. Oropeza reportedly yelled back "mind your f***ing business."
The victim said he did not mean anything by it and was just trying to see what was happening. He said he turned around to go back inside the house and heard footsteps charging towards him. He turned around and saw Oropeza about to tackle him.
The victim told investigators he put his hands in front of his face to try to defend himself as Oropeza tackled him to the ground and he went unconscious. The victim said he could not remember how he got into the house, but he talked to his roommates and was bleeding. He described himself as "out of it" and did not know how bad the assault was.
Police also interviewed the 911 caller who witnessed the aftermath of the assault. She told investigators the woman who was with Oropeza was screaming at him that he had "[messed] up," and "you did this," and told him they "could not leave him here bleeding like this." The 911 caller said she then saw Oropeza yelling at the door of the victim’s house saying, "who lives here, who lives here, I just knocked out your friend." She then saw him walk away from the scene.
Surveillance video captured the moments before, after and during the assault, according to the charges. The video shows Oropeza and the woman he was with arguing and the victim coming out of his house. Oropeza is seen tackling the victim and making movements consistent with hitting him while he was on the ground.
The video depicts the victim, who appears to be unconscious, lying on the ground for several minutes before Oropeza eventually carries him to the door of the house.
Medical records show the victim had a lip laceration and multiple facial fractures that will require reconstructive surgery. The parents of the victim previously told FOX 9 their son will have to take the rest of the semester off to move home and undergo facial and jaw surgery.
Oropeza was arrested on Tuesday. He made his first court appearance on Thursday and will make his next one on Dec. 16.
Oropeza is being represented by a team of attorneys at Groshek Law and they tell FOX 9 Oropeza says he was acting in self-defense after being approached. They add Oropeza was released on his own recognizance, and that he fully cooperated with police and was completely forthcoming with information.
The investigation into the alleged assault is ongoing.