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Affidavit reveals new details on battery at FSU fraternity

(WCTV)
Published: Sep. 4, 2018 at 12:49 PM EDT
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By: WCTV Eyewitness News

September 4, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A probable cause affidavit reveals new details on a battery incident at a Florida State University fraternity that left a student with a fractured skull and a missing tooth.

The incident happened on the evening of April 9 at FSU's Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity chapter in Heritage Grove.

Last week, Tallahassee Police confirmed that

in the case for 20-year-old Oliver Walker on charges of Battery and Crimes Against Person Culpable Negligence Inflict Harm.

Now we're learning what investigators say occurred at the fraternity house that night that sent a 20-year-old male FSU student to the hospital with a skull fracture and two brain bleeds.

According to the affidavit, a chapter meeting was being held at the fraternity that night and both Walker and the victim were in attendance. Investigators say the members were participating in a tradition called "scumbag of the week," during which a member was singled out and subjected to a punishment.

Witnesses told investigators that the victim was elected as the "scumbag" and Walker was selected to be the member to slap him. The victim and Walker then stood up in front of the group and shook hands.

Witnesses say the victim put his hands behind his back and held his chin forward while Walker placed his hand up to the victim's cheek a time or two, 'as though he were gauging the distance and practicing.'

Court documents state that Walker then struck the victim, with witnesses telling investigators they were not able to distinguish if he used a fist.

Witnesses said during interviews that Walker struck the victim "very hard" and "as hard as he could," adding that the amount of force used by Walker "shocked them."

The victim reportedly staggered and fell, striking his head on the floor, which rendered him unconscious. Witnesses said the chapter meeting abruptly ended due to the "ensuing chaos."

The victim was driven to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital by three of the witnesses, who investigators say collectively agreed on a fictitious story about how the victim was injured. The hospital staff were told that the victim slipped and fell.

The affidavit states that the victim was admitted to the Neurological Intensive Care Unit for treatment of a skull fracture, traumatic hemorrhage of the cerebrum, traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage with loss of consciousness, and traumatic subdural hemorrhage. Investigators say the victim also had a tooth knocked out as a result of being struck by Walker.

After the victim's release from TMH and return to his family's home, he had to be readmitted to the hospital for continuing care for his injuries.

The fraternity chapter was suspended after police learned that the victim had been injured as the result of a battery.

The affidavit states that the "scumbag" tradition was organized and fulfilled under the direction of the executive board of the fraternity. Witnesses described the tradition being for "brothers" of the fraternity, adding that pledges are not exposed to it.

The affidavit states, "Due to the circumstances, the incident was investigated as a potential hazing incident. The merits of this case were presented for a thorough review by the State Attorney's Office. Insufficient evidence was found to charge any of the persons involved with the crime of hazing."

A spokesperson for FSU said that Walker was never a student at the university and the victim is no longer enrolled there.

Amy Hecht, FSU Vice President for Student Affairs, said Friday, "Florida State University is in the process of reviewing the police report. Allegations of this nature can lead to charges under the Student Conduct Code, the Student Organization Conduct Code, or both. Alpha Epsilon Pi remains under Interim Disciplinary Action and cannot operate as an organization."

Jonathan Pierce, media spokesperson for Alpha Epsilon Pi International, said in a statement, "Obviously, Alpha Epsilon Pi International does not condone any type of physical violence towards anyone – whether intended to be humorous or not. However, neither the young man who was injured nor the accused were brothers in good standing of Alpha Epsilon Pi. Both were tenants at the apartment complex where the meeting was held and had a right to be at the premises. Alpha Epsilon Pi International is waiting for these and other reports from local authorities to determine next steps."

Walker declined to provide an interview for the investigation.

Following a motion from his attorney, Walker was not arrested and was instead allowed to remain free on his own recognizance. He has been ordered not to have contact with the victim and not to consume any alcohol.

Walker’s attorney, Joe Bodiford, applauds the state attorney’s decision not to charge Walker with hazing.

“Just because it happens at a fraternity or sorority house on campus doesn’t automatically make it hazing,” Joe Bodiford said. “I applaud their good judgement in knowing what is hazing and what is not hazing under Florida law.”

State Attorney Jack Campbell would not comment on his decision regarding Oliver Walker.

Campbell did say the reason he did not charge the other fraternity members who were present with hazing is because the incident did not involve any rite of passage – what the law refers to as initiation, admission or affiliation - and did not involve any physical brutality which the statute describes as “whipping, branding or beating.”

“Everyone in my office agreed it was extraordinarily stupid, outrageous behavior, but the facts were not sufficient to meet the elements of the hazing statute,” Campbell said. “I expect the fraternity members could face significant sanctions… both university and civil sanctions… for it.”