Published 12:00 am Friday, December 10, 1999
for injured brother
By BRIAN BLACKLEY
The investigation into a Dec. 3 accident that has left a Troy State University freshman paralyzed has led TSU police to investigate the man’s fraternity in an attempt to determine how his injuries occurred.
According to Rod Anderson, assistant chief of police at TSU, a thorough and objective investigation requires that the fraternity be investigated.
"This is something that will take a little time," he said. "We want to do a fair and thorough investigation into the injuries and make sure there was no foul play involved."
According to Alex Richards, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, the incident was something that occurred when a few fraternity members got together for some fun.
"This wasn’t a fraternity thing," he said. "This was the case of a few guys out having fun, horsing around when a terrible accident happened."
Richards wants the school to absolve the fraternity, but that is something that only time and investigation can do, Anderson said.
"We want to make sure things line up," Anderson said. "As with any case, you have opinions about what happened. You want to make sure you can rule those opinions out and let the facts of the case dictate where to go. We still have some investigating to do."
According to Richards, unfounded rumors are circulating regarding the incident, including that the incident was the result of hazing and that there was alcohol involved when the accident occurred.
According to Richards, tests performed on Stokes indicate that he was not using alcohol at the time of the accident.
"We have heard people saying that this was a hazing thing or that it was alcohol related when neither of these things is true," Richards said.
University officials neither confirmed nor denied the report that test results showed there was no alcohol involved in the incident.
"That is something that has been reported, but I have not seen that report in writing," said TSU Vice President of Student Affairs John Schmidt. "I believe that to be the case, but I cannot say with complete certainty at this time."
Schmidt is in agreement with Anderson that a complete investigation into the nature of the accident is the only way to discover what happened in the early morning of Dec. 3.
"We want to look at the circumstances surrounding the accident, and it would be prudent for us to look at overall fraternity procedures and at university and national chapter procedures," Schmidt said.
Still, Richards feels that if the investigation isn’t conducted quickly that any sort of trail of information will get cold.
"That’s the last thing we want," he said. "I want the police to talk to everyone and hear what they have to say. Once the holidays arrive and people come and go, it’s going to be hard for police to do a good job of investigating this."
Still, Anderson says that part of the process of investigation is taking the answers given by the fraternity members and making sure they are all accurate.
Among other things, Anderson said, TSU police want to talk with Stokes and make sure his story is consistent with the others they are hearing.
"Talking with the injured party is an obvious key to reaching a conclusion," Anderson said. "We have not done that at this point."
Stokes is currently bed-ridden and is unable to talk, according to Anderson.
"I talked with his father and he said the young man cannot communicate now," Anderson said. "We will continue to pursue talking with him."
Thursday, Schmidt visited Stokes at Baptist Hospital in Montgomery and described him as being "in good spirits."
"I am hopeful that this young man will see a full recovery and go home with his family in the near future," Schmidt said.
Richards has also been touch with Stokes’ family, assuring them of their support and trying to help in any way possible.
"Nick is a great guy with a lot of friends and a good family behind him," Richards said. "We want him to get better and get back to us. He is well-liked and we want him to be back at home as soon as possible."
Anderson and Schmidt want the same thing, but they plan to bring closure to the case itself when the time is right.
"We just want to make sure we cover all our bases," Anderson said. "That’s the key."
Schmidt hopes there is a lesson in the tragedy that occurred.
"I hope this makes people on campus more in tune to the importance of safety," he said. "When spring comes and there is a lot going on, I want people to remember this unfortunate event and use sound judgement regarding safety. I am sorry that this happened and I hope we can keep something like this from happening again."