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B-CC student dies during an initiation

The Brothers of Destiny, a Masonic group not affiliated with the school, blindfolded and chased him until he died of heart failure.

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 21, 2001

A computer science student at Bethune-Cookman College died while running from his pursuers in the streets in the middle of the night as part of an initiation ritual for a student group.

Alex Anderson, a 20-year-old student at the Daytona Beach college, was trying to join a student group called the Brothers of Destiny, but instead he became a casualty of college hazing early Tuesday.

Anderson's heart apparently gave out. Initial results from an autopsy showed that the second-year student from Deltona died of heart failure. His mother told college administrators that her son had a heart murmur.

There were no signs of bodily injury and no evidence alcohol or drugs were involved. But police are waiting for the results of toxicology tests as they investigate the circumstances surrounding the student's death.

"We need to see if any of the actions taken during the initiation could have put somebody at risk," said Daytona Beach police Sgt. Al Tolley. "At some point, he started off with a blindfold and had to run."

During the initiation, the blindfolded student was allowed to escape from the Brothers of Destiny so that members could chase him, capture him and bring him back, Tolley said. Anderson collapsed a mile from where the club had been meeting. It was unclear whether he was still blindfolded.

A passing driver found Anderson lying on the roadside about 2:30 a.m., several blocks from the B-CC campus. The driver brought Anderson to a hospital.

Several people who knew Anderson from the club showed up at the hospital and were cooperating with police investigators, Tolley said.

"At this point, we don't know whether the heart condition was an existing one," Tolley said. "If it is, we probably may be looking at an accidental death."

Hazing has been illegal in Florida since 1990. A state law prohibits it and requires universities to enforce the law and assess penalties.

However, it is unclear whether the hazing law will apply in this case.

For one thing, the Brothers of Destiny is not a campus group at Bethune-Cookman College. Its members are current and former B-CC students, but the club meets off-campus and is not sanctioned by the college, said Clarence Childs, B-CC's student affairs vice president.

The group had applied to become a sanctioned B-CC student organization more than 10 years ago, but the college said no, according to Childs.

Kevin Jackson-Hamilton, a member of the group, wouldn't comment on what happened Tuesday. But he said the Brothers of Destiny is a fraternal service organization affiliated with the Prince Hall Masons, an offshoot of the more widely known International Masonic Lodge.

The Prince Hall Masons were founded in the late 1700s by free blacks in the North, and the organization's members are still primarily African-Americans.

Bethune-Cookman, a historically black college founded in 1904, has about 2,500 students. This is the second death of a B-CC student in about a month. A 19-year-old student was shot to death Oct. 17 in a scuffle with some non-students.

Hazing continues to be a sporadic problem at several Florida universities.

Just last week, a member of the Florida A&M University band was arrested in the paddling of freshman trumpet players -- a beating that sent one student to a hospital with kidney failure.

At the University of Florida, a fraternity was found guilty of hazing in April after a midnight ritual in which members jumped from a 25-foot cliff into a water-filled pit at a limestone quarry.

At Florida State University last year, a fraternity was kicked off campus for at least four years after members forced underaged pledges to drink alcohol until they vomited.

And four fraternity members at the University of Tampa were suspended from their fraternity in April after a hazing ritual in which a pledge was blindfolded and shot with a stun gun.

- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report, which contains information from the Orlando Sentinel and the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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