A Sigma Alpha Epsilon prank that prompted a police investigation into kidnapping has upset Metropolitan Police officers and put more than 10 fraternity members at risk of judicial punishment by GW.
Two GW students were reportedly kidnapped outside of Funger Hall on Tuesday night. Eyewitness Brett Kaplan said the students the kidnapped students were surprised at about 5:15 p.m. by 10 to 13 males who “looked like college students,” duct-taped them around their ankles and threw them into a car which left the scene.
Kaplan said MPD officers arrived at 5:20 p.m. and collected evidence from a nearby Honda Civic with a piece of duct tape stuck on it, hoping to find fingerprints on the tape. The vehicle used in the kidnapping was identified as a dark blue or black Ford Expedition, which was later tied to a Sigma Alpha Epsilon member.
University Police Director Dolores Stafford said the owner of the vehicle was eventually identified and admitted that the kidnapping was part of a Sigma Alpha Epsilon prank.
Robert Chernak, vice president of Student and Academic Support Services, said UPD and MPD are investigating the incident. The students involved “will be subject to the judicial code of conduct.” The event could be described as hazing, which carries a possible punishment of probation with educational requirements, GW officials said.
MPD spokesman Joe Gentile said no police report was filed, most likely because officers considered the “kidnapping” a prank.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon President Andrew Hopkins called the incident “a huge misunderstanding that spun way out of control.”
He said one of the students, a pledge, was being taken out for a night on the town by other pledges as a reward for his hard work during the pledging process. Stafford said the second student tried to help his friend and was duct-taped in the process.
A common hazing activity by some fraternities involves a group of pledges who must kidnap another member – something David said happened to Hopkins last semester.
Hopkins said he was aware that the students involved would likely face sanctions through Student Judicial Services but was less sure about MPD.
“MPD told me that they’d let the school handle it, but I heard one commander was pretty upset,” Hopkins said.
“UPD supervisors said ‘pissed’ isn’t the word,” Interfraternity Council President Jared David said referring to reaction from MPD officers. “They were fuming.”
David said the latest incident “doesn’t do anything good” for the image of fraternities at GW.
“It just shows that unrecognized frats can have a negative impact,” David said. “I had to spend two hours down at UPD trying to determine if it was a recognized or unrecognized fraternity. Unfortunately, MPD makes no distinction between the two and just looks at this as a GW fraternity incident.”
-Russ Rizzo and Katie Warchut contributed to this report.