Records: Racial slurs 'played a significant role' in UK players' fight with fraternity

  • In US
  • 2021-09-09 11:53:09Z
  • By Lexington Herald-Leader

The use of racial slurs and alcohol "played a significant role" in an incident involving several University of Kentucky football players and the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity in March, according to student conduct records obtained by the Herald-Leader.

The confrontation, which allegedly ended in a fistfight between several people, resulted in six UK football players charged with first-degree burglary. One was also charged with wanton endangerment because police said he allegedly pointed a gun at partygoers.

But student conduct records, including police documents, obtained by the Herald-Leader through the Freedom of Information Act indicated that 13 people - including 10 football players - could have potentially faced burglary charges. Three of the suspects, one of whom was not a UK student, also were believed by police to possibly be subject to charges of wanton endangerment and assault.

Names were redacted from the records that documented statements from witnesses and victims who said people in attendance suffered injuries, including swollen eyes, when some players threw punches. Some of those who were allegedly hit were females, and one was pushed against the wall by her neck, according to conduct records.

The records also detailed statements from football players who said the altercation in March escalated into a fight because they were called racial slurs by several people at the party. Players stated in conduct records that they had been to parties at the same home previously without any incidents.

Burglary charges were eventually filed last month in Fayette District Court against six players - R.J. Adams, JuTahn McClain, Andru Phillips, Earnest Sanders, Vito Tisdale and Joel Williams. Tisdale also was charged with wanton endangerment because he was believed to have pointed a gun at people, according to Lexington police.

Those players and four others also were accused of student code violations.

Five individuals were found responsible for violating the university's COVID-19 guidelines. All of those individuals were assigned papers in which they were asked to reflect on their conduct. Three were given six-month conduct probation, and the other two were given "official warnings."

Three individuals were found responsible for "harm or threat of harm" under the school's conduct policy. One of those was the last case to be resolved in June and involved a football player.

A June 7 student conduct review of a football player - whose name wasn't released by UK - determined that he was responsible for the violation, but his acts did not warrant suspension from the university. The individual admitted in the hearing and in a statement submitted prior to the hearing that he was at the Alpha Sigma Phi party on March 6 and "was just defending himself" and that he was "struck, and fought back."

A female witness stated that the football player "shoved or hit her." That witness did not initially know who the player was and later identified him via photo.

A UK hearing board determined as fact that "alcohol and the use of racial slurs played a significant role" in the incident and caused the escalation of events that occurred on March 6 and early March 7.

'Inconsistent' accounts over guns

UK's hearing board - comprised of a staff member, faculty member and student - determined that a male witness gave an "inconsistent" account regarding the possession of a gun by the same football player who said he "fought back." The witness first said that he saw a gun tucked in the waistband of another person he referred to as the "first guy," then later said it was in the waistband of the player.

Later in his statement, the witness said "he heard" that the player pointed a gun at someone and eventually said he thought "there were four guns."

While some accounts of the guns allegedly involved were vague, one individual said one of the guns was a 9 mm handgun with a gray slide and black grip, according to conduct records.

No one claimed guns were ever fired during the altercation, according to student records.

No gun was found on a person, according to available police reports, and all reports of "a gun or guns" were hearsay, so the UK hearing board determined that "there was not a preponderance of evidence to say with certainty that (the football player) had a gun."

15 to 20 people tried to storm into home where party was held

The altercation occurred at an Alpha Sigma Phi party celebrating a member's 21st birthday, according to the student conduct investigation records.

The party was held at an off-campus home, which was rented by Alpha Sigma Phi members, according to records. Alpha Sigma Phi members were invited to the party for free, and any female partygoers could attend for free. To be welcomed to the party, males who weren't Alpha Sigma Phi members had to pay $5 and be on the guest list, according to records.

There was also a football players' party occurring on March 6, according to conduct records. A little over 20 people were at the party, including football players and basketball players, among other people.

Players, whose names were redacted, showed up at the fraternity party and walked through an unlocked door, according to records. As they walked up to the home, an "unidentified female" allegedly said a racial slur.

The female, wearing a blue jersey, allegedly asked the people who they were and told them they weren't welcome as she continued to use racial slurs, according to the conduct records. One person said he was also called a racial slur as soon as they walked in the house, according to student conduct records.

Alpha Sigma Phi members told the group to leave, according to conduct records. There were allegations that additional partygoers used racial slurs toward the players.

The players allegedly said they would come back after being told to leave, according to conduct records.

Between 30 and 50 people attended the fraternity party, according to conduct records. Approximately 20 people were present at the party when the group returned and an altercation started. Police were initially called for a report of 10 people, some of whom allegedly had weapons, trying to force their way into the home.

One person attested that around 1:50 a.m., he saw 15 to 20 guys outside the home "acting antsy," according to conduct records. A group "swarmed the house," a witness said.

Some of those inside tried to barricade the door, which had been locked after the first altercation, according to conduct records. Others involved accused multiple players of hitting a female. Witnesses said that females were struck during the fight inside, and one was allegedly pushed up against a wall by her neck.

One witness stated that no guns were pulled out inside the house, according to conduct records.

Incident involving UK players 'escalated into something ugly'

The UK hearing board determined the football player found responsible for harm or threat of harm should write two papers - a 1,000-word research paper on de-escalation skills and an 800-word reflection on the impact of the experience that resulted in his hearing. The player also was told to attend one or two sessions of counseling to discuss conflict resolution and anger management because of "racial tensions in this country."

In its recommendation of counseling, the hearing board wrote: "The harm caused by the use of racial slurs against (redacted) and others needs to be addressed. Parties are part of a college students experience, whether they are athletes, non-athletes, etc. These events are typically viewed as safe space with friends to have a good time. Clearly the events that occurred on the night of March 6th escalated into something ugly, harmful and resulted in an unsafe space" (sic).

Following the student conduct review, a total of 10 individuals were charged with at least one student conduct violation. Six people were found not responsible for any of their respective university charges.

Most of those cases were finalized in April. A single case finalized in March determined that an unidentified partygoer was responsible for hazing, while another unidentified partygoer was found responsible in April for multiple university conduct charges, including hazing and violation of COVID-19 guidelines.


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