Police are currently investigating the passing of a 20-year-old college student who sadly passed away over the weekend. Tyler Hilliard would have been a junior at the University of California, Riverside this year, however his family says his heart stopped after an alleged hazing incident.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Hilliard’s family says he was pledging to be a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. His mother, Myeasha Kimble-Hilliard, said she discovered text messages in his phone that revealed he went to a Mount Rubidoux hiking trip, also allegedly known as “gold paddle day.”
The text messages also reprotedly revealed that Hilliard 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.”
“I’m not saying that his death was a direct result of hazing. I don’t know that for sure,” his mom told reporters. “But I believe something happened that led up to his death.”
However, Hilliard’s aunt Robyn Fountain said, “It was very clear that they were being hazed.”
Hilliard was rushed to the hospital around 9 p.m. on Saturday after he left Mount Rubidoux. His family says his heart stopped seven times before he was pronounced dead.
As of now, authorities have labeled his death as “suspicious.” Detectives are investigating if hazing played a role in Hilliard’s death or if he had an underlying medical issue. The results of the autopsy report have yet to come back.
The LA Times reports that UC Riverside has a zero-tolerance hazing policy and the university’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of publishing.
The university released this statement in response to the news: “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.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better kid,” Myeasha Kimble-Hilliard told KTLA. “He had a bright future ahead of him.”
“Their organization is hazing and they need to be aware of it,” she added. “And they need to put a stop to it.”