Police in Riverside, Calif., say the death of a 20-year-old fraternity pledge is "suspicious," and they are investigating whether hazing played a role. "It's just not the easy whodunit type of case," Officer Ryan Railsback tells the Los Angeles Times. "There's a lot of unknowns about this." While on an Alpha Phi Alpha outing to Mt. Rubidoux, a hiking area near downtown Riverside, Tyler Hilliard experienced shortness of breath and collapsed, according to reports. The fraternity pledge master called 911, and Hilliard was taken to the hospital around 9pm. He died about 12 hours later, per the Press-Enterprise.
With no obvious signs of trauma on Hilliard's body, authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of the aspiring engineer's death—whether a medical condition, hazing, or something else. "I'm not saying that his death was a direct result of hazing," his mother, Myeasha Kimble-Hilliard tells the Times. "But I believe something happened that led up to his death." The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity has a no-hazing policy. But Hilliard's family says the pledge process, which began over summer, included multiple incidents of hazing, including Hilliard being forced to drink large amounts of water, being paddled with a cactus, and being forced to eat a whole onion covered in hot sauce. UC Riverside has suspended the fraternity for the time being, according to the Press-Enterprise. (Read more Riverside stories.)