The family of a promising UC Riverside student demand to know if hazing was a factor in the death of 20-year-old Tyler Hilliard after he collapsed during a trip with the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
Hilliard, who was a pledge of the distinguished African-American fraternity was reportedly attending a hiking outing at Mt. Rubidoux over the weekend when he complained of shortness of breath before collapsing, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“I’m not saying that his death was a direct result of hazing. I don’t know that for sure,” Hilliard’s mother, Myeasha Kimble-Hilliard, said on Tuesday. “But I believe something happened that led up to his death.”
Another suspicious detail that has Hilliard’s family up in arms is the discovery of a text message on his phone, calling the Mt. Rubidoux trip as “gold paddle day.”
While hazing is illegal at most colleges the practice can still be found to still take place underground and off the radar of school officials.
Kimble-Hilliard also reported having found a text message detailing hat her son was forced to eat an entire onion covered in hot sauce, forced to drink large amounts of water and was paddled with a piece of cactus as part of the fraternity’s pledge process, which began over the summer, according to the LA Times.
Several weeks ago, Hilliard’s mom said she took him to the emergency room after he reported having chest pains, after he consumed the onion covered in hot sauce.
Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback said to the Times that an investigation is underway and the death was labeled as suspicious.
“It’s just not the easy whodunit type of case,” he said. “There’s a lot of unknowns about this.”
The national Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity organization said it has launched an investigation and the chapter activities have been halted and been placed on an “immediate cease and desist status.”