Hazing seen as possible factor in UC Riverside student's death

Rob McMillan Image
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Hazing seen as possible factor in UC Riverside student's death
UC Riverside student Tyler Hilliard, 20, died after going with other fraternity pledges to Mount Rubidoux.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- An investigation is underway after a student at the University of California Riverside died in what may be a fraternity hazing incident.

Tyler Hilliard, 20, would have been a junior this year, majoring in engineering.

Police are waiting for the results of an autopsy, but did confirm they are investigating the possibility of hazing in his death.

His family says Tyler was going for a degree in physics at UCR and wanted to be an engineer.

They say he'd recently pledged at the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha and that activities began in July.

According to the fraternity's website, Alpha Phi Alpha has a strict no-hazing stance, and that anyone participating in hazing is a criminal.

But his family says hazing was a big part of the activities Hilliard was involved with. He was allegedly forced to eat items like an entire onion covered in hot sauce, forced to drink large amounts of water; and even paddled with a piece of cactus.

Late last week he was admitted to the hospital for having difficulty breathing, but was treated and released. His family says he had no underlying medical problems.

This past Saturday night, the family says the fraternity ordered him and the other pledges up to Mount Rubidoux for what they called a day run; even though it was 9:15 at night.

The family says what happened next is unclear; but the paramedics were called, again for difficulty breathing.

Hilliard was rushed to the hospital, but was later pronounced dead.

UC Riverside has released a statement on his death: "The UC Riverside community grieves the loss of our student Tyler Hilliard. 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 fraternity's national office released a statement on Hilliard on Tuesday, saying they are deeply saddened to learn of his death.

"The Fraternity shares our deepest condolences to his family, loved ones, and the entire university community, as their loss is unimaginable," organization Executive Director Jamie R. Riley said.

The national organization has placed the Riverside chapter on suspension during the investigation and is cooperating with law enforcement, the group said. The statement repeated the organization's no-hazing stance, saying any member who violates the policy would be suspended with a recommendation for expulsion. Fraternity members also receive anti-hazing training before participating in new member activities, the group said.