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University of Kansas fraternity suspended after turkey allegedly abused, killed at party

A fraternity at the University of Kansas has been suspended by the national organization after reports that a turkey was thrown around like a football, choked and then killed at a frat house party.

"We were a little shocked by the accounts that are being shared," said Martin Cobb, spokesman for the Beta Theta Pi national organization, told the Lawrence Journal-World.

Cobb said the national organization has suspended the KU chapter indefinitely while university and local officials investigate the incident at an end-of-semester dance and dinner party at the fraternity house in Lawrence, Kan.

Lawrence police said they were called to the fraternity house Friday night to investigate a report of possible animal cruelty involving a live turkey.

Police determined that the turkey, which had been in a cage, somehow got loose and was "chased and abused by several individuals present at the party, seriously injuring the animal," Sgt. Trent McKinley told the Journal-World. Someone killed the turkey, "stating he did so to end its suffering," McKinley said, according to the newspaper.

Witnesses told The Kansas City Star that the turkey was chased through a crowd of about 150 people, thrown around like a football and choked. At one point its wing snapped, and then its leg, according to witness reports.

Chad Boydston, a trumpet player for a blues band that was hired to play at the party, said the turkey was running around scared. “It turned into a blood lust,” he told the Star. “We saw a mob mentality.”

Band member Lisa McKenzie said she jumped off the stage and begged the students to let her have the bird. “They told me it was none of my business,” McKenzie told the Star. She said she was the one who called police.

It’s unclear what happened to the bird after it died.

No one was arrested at the party.

McKinley said the case will be forwarded to the Douglas County district attorney, who will consider whether charges are warranted after the investigation is complete.

The KU Beta Theta Pi chapter issued a statement on Wednesday through the national organization saying it supported its indefinite suspension:

Members of the KU and Lawrence Community:

The University of Kansas Chapter of Beta Theta Pi and its alumni take seriously the allegations of mistreatment of animals in conjunction with our annual end-of-the-semester formal dinner and dance last Friday night. It is for that reason that our chapter supports and accepts our General Fraternity’s decision to immediately suspend our chapter’s activities until a thorough investigation has been completed. We are fully cooperating with the University of Kansas, Beta Theta Pi General Fraternity and legal authorities. The alleged behavior conflicts sharply with our values of integrity, responsible conduct and trust, and pending the outcome of the investigation, we are committed to holding responsible parties accountable for any inappropriate behavior.

In announcing the suspension, the national fraternity said:

“Beta Theta Pi prides itself on being an organization that holds its members to the highest standards of personal and group conduct. The risk management policy and other rules and regulations of the General Fraternity, the University and the state of Kansas provide the framework for those standards. In light of the recent incident at the chapter’s semester-end formal dinner and dance, the chapter’s ability to operate in the constructs of those regulations has been called into question.

It is expected that the General Fraternity and the Alpha Nu chapter will coordinate an initial investigation to determine what occurred the evening of the incident. Further, we expect that the chapter will comply fully with University and local officials during their investigations. All chapter activities are suspended until a complete investigation has been completed.”

In a statement, the University of Kansas said it expects anyone with information about the incident to cooperate fully with investigators. “Behavior such as that reported is reprehensible and is not what KU would expect from its students,” the university said.

The Kansas turkey death was the latest in a string of bad-news incidents involving college fraternities.

The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Northern Illinois University was suspended and its members could face hazing charges after a 19-year-old NIU student was found dead on Nov. 2 in the fraternity house following a night of heavy drinking.  An autopsy concluded he died of cardiac arrhythmia triggered by alcohol. 

A West Virginia University fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, was permanently suspended from campus in November after an alleged hazing incident involving late-night drinking at the chapter house.

In October, the University of Alabama suspended all fraternity pledgeship activities after hazing allegations were made against 10 fraternities. 

The hazing death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion in 2011 put renewed focus on the problem. A medical examiner ruled Champion's death a homicide, and former members of the historically black college's "Marching 100" band face felony hazing charges stemming from the death.

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