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Nine expelled from Massachusetts college after attack over shoes

CONWAY, Mass (Reuters) - Nine students expelled from a Massachusetts college after the brutal on-campus beating of a student over a pair of sneakers was videotaped and posted online may soon face criminal charges, college officials and police said on Wednesday.

The fight took place Friday afternoon in broad daylight at Dean College, outside of Boston, when a group of male students surrounded a young man and one of them briefly confronted him before punching him in the face, knocking him to the ground, dazed, police said.

Video footage, shot by one in the group and later posted on many Internet sites, shows the beating.

After punching him, the assailant can be seen pulling off the victim's shoes and hitting him in the face with them before walking off with the shoes.

During and after the altercation, the group of students taunts and laughs at the bloodied, staggering victim, the video shows.

Police in Franklin, Massachusetts, where the college is located, expect to soon charge the assailant with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon -- a shoe -- and unarmed robbery, Stephan Semerjian, Franklin Police Department Deputy Chief, told Reuters.

Others among the former Dean students may also face charges depending upon results of the investigation, Semerjian said.

"We have the video and we've seen what transpired, but we also need to talk to people who saw what happened and determine the extent of the culpability of the guys who were the cheerleaders" in the fight, Semerjian said.

Police say some in the group had accused the student who was attacked of stealing a pair of popular Nike Foamposite sneakers, which can fetch upwards of $200.

The victim, however, had actually purchased the sneakers, and his family has given officers a store receipt for them, Semerjian said.

"It (the assault) was a pretty bad mistake, or it was just a flat-out ploy because the kid wanted his sneakers," Semerjian said.

Campus police arrived just after the altercation and the student allegedly responsible for starting it was expelled on Friday, said Dean College spokesman Gregg Chalk.

Eight other students were expelled Monday and Tuesday as a result of the video, posted on several Internet sites, which Chalk said provided additional insight for the school's investigation of the attack. No other students are currently under investigation.

The victim was treated at the campus medical center and then briefly at a hospital before being released later Friday. He returned to school this week, Chalk said.

None of the students involved in the incident was identified, but Chalk confirmed both the attacker and victim were over 18 years old.

"Dean College has a zero tolerance policy for conduct that is detrimental to the safety and well being of our students, faculty and staff," Dean College President Paula Rooney said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The actions we have taken underscore the seriousness with which we view this responsibility," Rooney said.

Dean College is a private, residential school with around 1,600 students located on 100 acres about 40 miles southwest of Boston.

(Reporting by Zach Howard; Editing by Lauren Keiper and Jerry Norton)

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