Hazing investigation underway after fraternity pledge suffers injuries

Editor's Note: This story contains graphic content you might find disturbing

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville mother turned to the I-TEAM for help for what she is calling a crisis on college campuses -- hazing and initiations of students who want to join fraternities. The mother of a senior at Edward Waters College is coming forward to talk about her son's initiation into Kappa Alpha Psi.

Kimberly Allen said her son was required to take synthetic drugs as part of a mental challenge which resulted in a drug addiction. She also said he was paddled to the point where he passed out from the pain. 

Pictures show the injuries to her 23-year-old son's buttocks, and due to the graphic nature, the I-TEAM has blurred the photos that reveal scarring and bruising.   

Allen said the injuries were a result of a beating with a wooden paddle in the spring of 2018.

"It looked like somebody had taken a razor blade and scraped off the top layer of his skin, but it wasn't to that point. You could tell that he had been literally tortured," she said.

Allen said it happened while her son was a senior at Edward Waters College -- while he was pledging the fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. 

But according to Allen, the paddling wasn't what did the most damage. Instead, she said it was a synthetic drug commonly called a "jig," a mixture of synthetic heroin, cocaine and LSD.

"He was exposed to the drug through pledging with the Greek," she told the I-TEAM and police. 

Allen said her son told her that fraternity members gave him and others the synthetic drugs during the hazing process in order to turn the initiation into a mental challenge as well. 

"I don't want my son to pledge anything, and he begged me not to talk about this because he said, 'Mom, I won't be able to pledge and neither will the guys who were on the line with me.' I didn't care about that but I kept my mouth closed just because he's my son and I didn't want him to be blackballed. But at this point, it has to be exposed," an emotional Allen said.

Allen reported the incident to police, and according to that report, her son received "lashings to his buttocks" and it states the drug "jig" is rampant at Edward Waters College. 

The college issued this statement in response to questions from the I-TEAM:

"Edward Waters College (EWC) takes any allegation of hazing extremely seriously. Further, the College acts appropriately to investigate such allegations when reported. Out of respect for privacy, we do not comment publicly on alleged matters concerning our students. As always, EWC remains committed to providing students with a healthy and encouraging environment in support of their overall academic success, personal growth, and development." 

Allen said after her son was introduced to synthetic drugs, he developed an addiction resulting in 14 months of drug treatment and rehab, which continues to this day.

She said her son's doctor told her "jig" has permanently damaged the frontal lobe of her son's brain, and he may never be the same again.

The police report does not name any suspects, or persons suspected of providing Allen's son with synthetic drugs, and News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson believes it may be a difficult case for police. 

"What are some of the challenges from a police perspective of proving a case something like this, especially when we are talking about something that is alleged to have occurred back in the spring of last year and you're dealing with a fraternity?" we asked Jefferson.

"When you have a large time lapse, and you have no corroborating witness, you have no video to back up what you're saying, it becomes a civil issue, and it becomes your word against the fraternity's word," he said.

Jefferson said if the allegations are proven -- either by police or through the college's own investigation or a civil lawsuit -- there's a shared liability among Edward Waters College, the fraternity, and Allen's son himself.

"You have to bear some responsibly, in that, does he have to bear all? I don't know. Does the school have to come in and say we are responsible for certain things? They should," said Jefferson.

"I'm not trying to ruin any jobs for anybody and I don't want any money or anything, I'm not trying to sue anybody. He definitely doesn't want to do that," said Allen. "It's just that if it's happening at this college, it's probably happening at a lot of them." 

The I-TEAM spoke with Kappa Alpha Psi Executive Director John Burrell several times over the past two months about these allegations. Burrell stressed that Kappa Alpha Psi in no way condones hazing of any kind. In fact, the fraternity outlawed this kind of pledging decades ago.

Burrell told us he encourages any individual who has been assaulted to go to the police, like Allen has done.

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