Six University of Akron fraternity brothers are facing assault and hazing charges for allegedly paddling a pledge from Grafton so hard that he had to be hospitalized when his injuries became infected.
Arrest warrants were issued Thursday for Rinaldo Allen Jr., 21, of Akron; Steven Pitts, 23, of Norton; J’Lani Pryce, 22, of Akron; Chauncey Gilliam, 24, of Bedford Heights; Traveon Leak, 22, of Stow; and Clive Ennin, 23, of Akron. All are members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which the university reported has been suspended from Greek activity since Jan. 31.
“Hazing of any kind is not tolerated,” the university said in a statement released Thursday. “As a university community, we are deeply disturbed and saddened when any of our students suffer harm, and we will continue to support any victims in this pending case.”
According to a University of Akron Police Department report, officers received an anonymous tip in January that one of the fraternity’s pledges, identified as 21-year-old Avery Ware, had been hazed so badly that he had to be hospitalized.
Ware told police that he began the pledge process around the beginning of the year and that he and his fellow “line brothers” immediately began “taking wood” with a paddle. According to the report, the other pledges interviewed by police denied that they were hazed, although officers obtained video footage of them walking “gingerly.”
Ware, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, told police that he was the pledge who received the most blows from the paddles, which the active fraternity members brought with them.
According to the report, Ware told officers that the paddling took place on multiple occasions over a period of three weeks, and that while he didn’t know exactly where the incidents occurred, they were off campus, and on one occasion he remembered going to Cleveland.
Although Ware told police he didn’t know the exact date that he began to bleed from the beatings, it had been building over previous nights.
“Mr. Ware stated that the injuries occurred from multiple nights of beating. He became aware the night he was bleeding. He was bleeding from his buttocks,” the report said.
He also told police that on one night, he was bleeding through his pants when “the beating did not stop, but one of the members stated that they would hit him on the other cheek,” the report said.
Ware said that although Leak, the chapter’s president, didn’t participate in the paddling, he did intervene on some occasions when the blows got out of hand.
Ware told police that his mother asked him to come home and that he told her he was hurt. He said that she told him “she could smell the infection” and took him to University Hospitals EMH Medical Center on Jan. 26 for treatment.
Leak confirmed to police that a fraternity brother had created a story about Ware’s hygiene to explain his hospitalization.
Ware also told police that when he went to the hospital, he claimed that he was injured in a sledding accident because “he was still in the frame of mind that he still wanted to be in this organization, Alpha Phi Alpha.” Several other members of Ware’s family have been involved in Greek organizations.
The report said that Ware was hospitalized for two days and was given antibiotics to help him deal with his injuries.
According to the report, Allen suggested that the fraternity’s suspension was the result of an ongoing feud with another fraternity or someone who didn’t make it into the fraternity and wanted the group kicked off campus.
Although most of the fraternity brothers denied there was hazing going on, Leak admitted that there had been paddling that had been going on for roughly three weeks.
“Leak stated that the reason he stopped the process when he was there (was) because (of) what happened to him,” the report said. “That because when he was pledging he took the most ‘wood.’ He stated that just because he could handle his own, he didn’t want to see people go through that.”
Leak denied that he ever actually paddled any of the pledges — something Ware had also told police — and that he had wanted to change the process.
A call seeking comment from the national Alpha Phi Alpha organization was not returned Thursday.