20 year-old UCR student Tyler Hilliard died on Sept. 15 after collapsing during a fraternity outing to Mt. Rubidoux. Hilliard was a pledge of Alpha Phi Alpha, an African-American cultural fraternity. Detectives are investigating the possibility that Hilliard’s death was the result of hazing.
The incident occurred at approximately 9 p.m. at Mount Rubidoux when Hilliard complained of shortness of breath and collapsed. According to Myeasha Kimble-Hilliard, Tyler’s mother, the fraternity pledge master dialed 911.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Hilliard’s mother stated, “I’m not saying that his death was a direct result of hazing. I don’t know that for sure. But I believe something happened that led up to his death.” According to his family text messages were found on Hilliard’s phone referring to the hike to Mount Rubidoux as “gold paddle day,” leading them to believe that Hilliard experienced hazing prior to his passing.
Johnny Cruz, the Assistant Vice Chancellor & Chief Communications Officer at UCR, stated that the fraternity has been placed on interim suspension by the university, prohibiting any official or unofficial organizational activities until further notice.
He also noted that similar actions were taken by the fraternity at a “national level.” “The national Alpha Phi Alpha organization has placed the local chapter on an immediate cease and desist status, suspending all activities,” Cruz explained in an email interview.
Alpha Phi Alpha, established in 1906 at Cornell University, currently has over 290,000 members. It is one of the ten largest fraternities in America and has over 730 chapters worldwide.
Another chapter of the fraternity was also accused of hazing allegations earlier this year. In May of 2018, the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter at the University of Mississippi was disbanded until 2021 due to the findings of a hazing investigation.
An official statement from UCR provided by UCR’s Director of Media Relations reads, “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.”
Riverside Police Public Information Officer Ryan Railsback stated, “We have nothing to report at this time. There are a lot of factors involved, and we are taking into account the family’s concerns as well as things like medical history. It is currently being investigated as a suspicious death.” Railsback directed anyone with information helpful to the investigation to call Detective Jim Brandt at (951) 353-7137.
Carly Garcia, UCR’s fraternity and sorority coordinator, was unavailable for response.