Nine members of a fraternity under suspension at Louisiana State University were arrested Thursday on charges related to hazing pledges who were urinated on, forced to lay on broken glass, and ordered to stand for hours in painful positions, according to authorities.
The nine present and former Louisiana students, all of whom had been members of Delta Kappa Epsilon, were booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on charges ranging from criminal hazing to felony battery, the university said. All turned themselves in to police.
The charges stem from an investigation by LSU police, who received reports about hazing from DKE’s national organization.
One pledge told police he was forced to stay in an ice machine for more than 30 minutes that was half filled with ice and water. He was eventually taken out to lie on a basketball court covered in broken glass, according to an affidavit in support of the arrests.
While on the court, he and another pledge were sprayed with a hose. The pair also had milk cartons thrown at them and were urinated upon, the affidavit said.
The arrests are the latest in a string of national incidents that have put a harsh spotlight on hazing, alcohol and Greek life at college campuses. Among the most prominent was the case of Tim Piazza, 19, who died in February 2017 after a hazing ritual at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State.
Calling it a “sad day for the university,” Jason Droddy, interim vice president for Strategic Communications at LSU, said in a statement that “quick action by the national DKE organization in revoking the chapter’s charter and the cooperation of several witnesses in this investigation demonstrate a growing recognition that hazing and other harmful activities cannot be tolerated.”
Cade Rain Duckworth, 23, of Lafayette faces the most severe charges. He was booked on suspicion of three felonies – second-degree battery, attempted second-degree battery and false imprisonment – in addition to three counts of criminal hazing.
Felony battery charges were also filed against Gaston Thomas Eymard, 23, of Kenner; Malcolm Richard McNiece, 23, of Baton Rouge; and Shakti P. Gilotra, 22, whose hometown was not disclosed.
Those booked on misdemeanor hazing charges include Charles Eugene Brakenridge, 23, of Ferriday; Blake Andrew Chalin, 20, of Gretna; Joseph Dylan Harkrider, 19, of Zackary; Garrett Joseph Sanders, 21, of Minden; and Alexander Joseph Rozas, 23, of Jennings.
Duckworth and McNiece are not students this semester, officials said.
The affidavit said that at in the ice-machine incident, the pledge told police he feared he would be beaten if he did not comply.
Court papers said pledges would be forced into painful positions like the “gargoyle,” a handstand with an ice bucket below their heads, or the “rack,” in which initiates would have to stand on their toes with fingers touching an inclined ceiling, sometimes for hours at a time.
The “table” position involved putting a pledge on their hands and knees and using their back as a table. One pledge said fraternity members used his back to play a game of dice. At one point, it appeared they were going to burn him with lighted cigarettes, but he fled before it could happen.
DKE’s chapter at LSU was closed Jan. 15 after having been part of the university since 1923. DKE, founded at Yale in 1844, says its membership has included five U.S. presidents, including both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. It says on its website that “Deke is known for producing outstanding gentleman, leaders, and jolly good fellows.”
Details of the incident that led to the arrests have not been disclosed.
Louisiana enacted an anti-hazing law last March following the death of a pledge to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Maxwell Gruver, 18, of Roswell, Georgia, died after being forced to down multiple drinks laced with 190-proof alcohol as part of a ritual. The new law is named for Gruver. The fraternity was also suspended.
After Thursday’s arrests, DKE Executive Director Doug Lanpher issued a statement saying the fraternity is dedicated to stamping out hazing.
“DKE supports all efforts to hold individuals accountable and eradicate hazing from college campuses,” he wrote. “Last month, DKE acted decisively in closing our LSU chapter upon learning of extremely disturbing hazing allegations. DKE International fully supports the Max Gruver Law and acted accordingly in cooperating with the LSU police in this investigation.”
At Penn State, Piazza had consumed large amounts of alcohol, then suffered massive injuries after falling down a staircase. Criminal charges were filed against 28 fraternity members; nearly all of those charges have been resolved. Some fraternity members have pleaded guilty to mostly alcohol- or hazing-related charges, and others have entered a diversion program designed for first-time, non-violent offenders.
Piazza’s family also filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit Jan. 31, naming the 28 fraternity members. Piazza “endured horrible pain and suffering” during the ordeal, according to the lawsuit, which cites video evidence seized from the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
The video shows Piazza on a couch after he had tumbled down a set of stairs in a drunken stupor following a drinking ritual at the fraternity called “the Gauntlet.” He suffered a lacerated spleen, a skull fracture and other injuries. He died two days later at Hershey Medical Center.
Contributing: Mike James
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