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UNL police investigate alleged fraternity hazing

UNL police investigate alleged fraternity hazing

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln police have seized video equipment they believe was used to capture images of an alleged incident of hazing involving Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity members.

According to Lancaster County Court documents, UNL police obtained video of a fraternity member duct taped face down to a bench outside the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at 616 N. 16th St. in early December.

In the video, which was shared on social media, the student wearing nothing but underwear is restrained on the bench with his arms above his head while freshmen in the fraternity and members of the sorority douse him with ketchup and mustard.

Police said it was unclear how long the fraternity member was taped to the bench, although video clips show him freeing his hands and pulling tape from his waist while still being sprayed with the condiments.

According to court documents, members of the fraternity told police the incident was part of a tradition where freshmen members pick a senior to “repay the seniors for what they do to the freshmen.” They said the tradition “was more of an honor than ‘payback.’”

Under Nebraska law, hazing is defined as any activity in which a person “intentionally or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health or safety of an individual” for purposes of initiation, admission or affiliation with any organization.

Activities that constitute hazing include whipping, beating, branding, forced exercise or exposure to the elements, forced consumption of food, drink, drugs or harmful substance or “any brutal treatment or the performance of any unlawful act” by members of a student organization, according to law.

During the investigation, which is ongoing, the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority refused a request from police to view footage from a surveillance camera pointed at the bench where the alleged hazing took place, court records state.

Police turned to Lancaster County Judge Thomas Fox, who granted investigators a search warrant on Dec. 16, and police seized the video equipment.

No action has been taken against either the fraternity or the sorority, UNL spokesman Steve Smith said.

“Police are still looking into it,” Smith said. “The university will take necessary action at the appropriate time.”

UNL police said winter break has slowed the investigation. Classes ended Dec. 18.

A Sigma Phi Epsilon spokesman declined to comment.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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