Jul 24, 2014 12:00 AM by Marisa Mendelson
TUCSON - Within three years, two members of the FIJI fraternity died at the University of Arizona. Now the father of one of them wants the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at the U of A to close its doors for good. He spoke with Investigative Reporter Marisa Mendelson.
"What happened to me was sort of every parent's worst nightmare," said Chip Forrester.
On April 2nd of 2011, Wilson Forrester died inside the FIJI fraternity house. Forrester's father Chip had just arrived at the Tucson airport expecting to be picked up by his son. Instead, he was met by police officers.
"They took me to a private room and gave me the news that my son had just been discovered dead on the couch," said Chip Forrester.
An autopsy showed Wilson Forrester died from an overdose of alcohol and pills. According to incident reports, when detectives from the University of Arizona Police Department interviewed FIJI brothers after Forrester's death, one member said, "...everyone in the house knew that he was into drugs." Reports say Forrester also had the nickname, "Black-out Willie."
"For someone to have that sort of nickname and not sort of, not realize that that's a real problem and do something about it, is just really inexcusable," said Chip Forrester.
When detectives interviewed the person who was president of FIJI at the time of Forrester's death, reports say he "...estimated that Forrester drank 5 nights a week" and "...anytime Forrester would drink, drugs were almost always involved." However, when the detective asked if he "...felt he needed to report" the situation to Greek Life, the report says the president responded that the fraternity "...would just handle it internally."
"Had I had any knowledge that something like this was going on, I would have been on an airplane and intervened, taken him out of school, done something to at least try and make a difference in his life," said Chip Forrester. "But, you know, his mother and I never had a chance."
Three years and two days after Wilson Forrester's death, another FIJI member died at the University of Arizona. On April 4th of 2014, investigators say Michael Anderson climbed to the top of a campus dorm and fell off a cooling tower. An autopsy showed Anderson had marijuana and alcohol in his system.
"How many deaths, how many tragedies need to take place on that campus?" asked Chip Forrester.
Following UAPD's investigation into Anderson's death, seven members of FIJI are now facing charges. Five members face charges of providing false reports to law enforcement. FIJI's president and vice president face charges of providing alcohol to minors.
Exactly two weeks after Anderson's death, three more FIJI fraternity members were cited with underage drinking at the house. According to an incident report, on April 18th University of Arizona police officers were dispatched to the FIJI fraternity house because of a 911 hang-up call. Once inside, an officer said three underage men all "...showed signs and symptoms of intoxication." Officers say they also found "...empty beer bottles and beer cans throughout the courtyard."
In July, three months after Anderson's death, the University of Arizona put FIJI on an "interim suspension."
"How often does this have to happen before that university and that leadership and that fraternity wakes up and realizes that they've got a real problem on their hands?" asked Chip Forrester.
The University of Arizona is now conducting its own investigation into FIJI. It has the power to take away the fraternity's recognition with the university.
"That right now is temporarily taken away and what their investigation is going on right now is to determine if that will be a more permanent loss of recognition," explained Dr. Melissa Vito, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at The University of Arizona.
MARISA MENDELSON, NEWS 4 TUCSON: "Do you think FIJI should have lost its recognition with the university prior to now?"
DR. MELISSA VITO, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR STUDENT AFFAIRS AND ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT: "I think our interactions with FIJI and interventions and the way that we've been working with student leadership, national leadership and local alumni, because they do have an active group, have been absolutely appropriate."
However, Wilson Forrester's father thinks it's time for the University of Arizona to permanently close the doors on the FIJI fraternity.
"How many young men are going to die before someone in the leadership wakes up and does something about it?" asked Chip Forrester.
Four other fraternities at the University of Arizona have lost their recognition because of alcohol and hazing violations over the past four years.
University officials tell me they could decide FIJI's fate as soon as next month.
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