Burchett offered check (declined) and apology (accepted) after Saudi teen’s attack

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, a candidate for the 2nd Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, was one of several motorists who came under attack from a Saudi Arabian citizen who recently enrolled at the University of Tennessee to study nursing, reports the News Sentinel. The youth’s lawyer says he suffered “an unexpected mental breakdown” in the episode, which warrants say involved pounding on cars and grabbing at the drivers as they passed him on a street near the UT Knoxville campus.

“Did they screen this guy at all for mental health issues?” Burchett said Friday of 19-year-old Nofl Hassan Alatyah. “I’m not getting any answers, and I’m very frustrated.”

… Burchett had no idea who the young man was or his citizenship status – until his phone started ringing. It was the Saudi Embassy on the line. Burchett said an Embassy representative offered him a job — though his duties were unclear — in the first call and a check to cover the damages to his vehicle in the second call.

“I’m running for Congress, and the Saudi Embassy wants to send me a check?” said Burchett… I’ll just drive around with a dent.”

On the third call, Burchett said he got an apology, which he accepted. His beef, he said, is not with a mentally ill young man or Saudi citizens but with the lack of information he’s been afforded on Alatyah’s background or current status.

“We have hard-working Middle Eastern people in this country working hard every day, obeying the law and jumping through all the hoops to be in this country legally,” Burchett said. “How did this guy get in the country if he had mental issues? Who at the federal level is watching this?”

Attorney Stephen Ross Johnson, who represents Alatyah, said Friday in a statement the teenager was awarded a scholarship by the Saudi government to pursue a degree in the medical profession and had no history of mental illness before he was granted a student visa and allowed to enroll at UT two weeks before the Halloween incident.

“All mental health providers agree that Nofl suffered an unforeseen mental health episode. Nofl is very sorry for what happened. No one was injured other than Nofl, who is currently hospitalized.”

Alatyah began pounding on the windows of and kicking at vehicles stopped or slowing for a red light near Thompson Boling Arena. In one case, he grabbed the shirt of a female motorist with his blood-soaked hand through her open window. He threw punches at police, who used a stun gun on him.

He was charged with two counts of felony vandalism – one with Burchett as a victim – as well as two counts of assault on police, assault on a motorist, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

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