Homicide detectives have launched an investigation into the ‘suspicious’ death of a college student after his family claimed he was being hazed by a California fraternity.
Tyler Hillard, 20, died Sunday after going out with his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity pledge class.
Alpha Phi Alpha is the first historically black fraternity that boasts members like Martin Luther King, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Dick Gregory and Jesse Owens.
Hillard – who was starting his third year as a business student at University of California, Riverside – was taken to a hospital at 9pm on Saturday after he collapsed at Mount Rubidoux.
And when the pledge master explained what happened, Hillard’s family found themselves not believing all the details.
‘He said that they were about to go for a hike at Mount Rubidoux – they had not started hiking yet – and that Tyler was feeling short of breath,’ mother Myeasha Kimble-Hillard explained to KTLA. ‘Shortly after that he collapsed, and (the pledge master) called 911.’
According to the man’s family, Hillard’s heart stopped seven times before he was pronounced dead on Sunday.
But the family speculate that Hillard was taking part in a hazing ritual while on the mountain. His cousin, Robyn Fountain, said there were texts that alluded to ‘gold paddle day.’
‘So, I don’t know,’ Fountain said. ‘I assume that means that they were going to be beaten in the wilderness.’
She said that text messages also indicated that there were other meetups that Hillard was responsible for attending, in the week leading up to his death.
Riverside Police also found the circumstances perplexing.
‘It’s a little bit suspicious, a 20-year-old young man, college student passing away like this,’ Officer Ryan Railsback said.
The school released a statement saying it planned to work with the authorities.
They stated: ‘The UC Riverside community grieves the loss of our student Tyler Hillard. We’ve shared our condolences and offer of support with Tyler’s family and have made counseling services available to students, faculty, or staff who knew him. UCR Student Affairs and UCPD are collaborating with the Riverside Police Department to determine the circumstances regarding Tyler’s passing.’
The national organization for Alpha Phi Alpha released a statement of support for Hillard’s family and stated that they would be working with authorities.
‘Working with the university, the fraternity has launched an investigation into the situation and has placed the chapter on an immediate cease and desist status, suspending all activities,’ the statement stated.
‘Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. does not condone and strictly prohibits any illegal acts, including hazing in any form, whether physical or mental, as a term or condition of membership in the organization.
‘Any member found violating the fraternity’s anti-hazing policy will be immediately suspended with a recommendation for expulsion.’
Alpha Phi Alpha claims on its national website that it actively works against hazing.
‘Their organization is hazing and they need to be aware of it,’ Kimble-Hillard said. ‘And they need to put a stop to it.’
Many minority Greek organization have anti-hazing policies in effect and work – both with their national organizations and Greek councils – to combat individual instances that may occur at local chapters.
Greek paddles are also given as gifts to not only new member neophytes, but also to prophytes, chapter alumni and even across Greek organizations from fraternities and sororities.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Matthew Wright