MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 39-year-old Minneapolis man was charged Friday with third-degree assault after injuring local news anchor Matt Belanger at a downtown Minneapolis light rail platform last week.
Vennie Jerome Williams also faces harassment charges because his attack was motivated by bias against what he believed the victim’s sexual orientation to be. Williams is scheduled to make his first court appearance May 18.
According to the criminal complaint, on May 12, Metro Transit Police responded to 4th Street and Marquette Avenue in Minneapolis where the KSTP-TV anchor told officers that a man he did not know threw an object at him as he was walking across the Nicollet light rail platform. The object struck and injured his left eye.
Belanger went to the Hennepin County Medical Center and learned he had suffered a corneal and ocular abrasion, which doctors said could cause permanent damage.
Officers retrieved surveillance footage of the incident that clearly captured the assault. Metro Transit police found Williams soon after near 6th Street and Marquette Avenue, and Belanger later positively identified Williams as the attacker.
Williams was arrested, and while in the back of the squad car, he began to rant and repeatedly swore. Williams then indicated that one of the reasons he attacked the victim was that he perceived the victim was homosexual, the complaint states.
Belanger attended a follow-up appointment with a specialist who diagnosed him with traumatic hyphema of the left eye and traumatic iritis. Doctors advised Belanger that the eye was at a delicate stage of healing and that if the pressure builds up anymore in the eye, he could lose his vision in that eye permanently.
Belanger was told to stay home to recover and not to do anything physical, including driving or going to work. Doctors also told him that as a result of this injury, he will remain at risk for serious medical complications involving his eye for many years to come.