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UConn suspends fraternity amid assault charges against former president following hazing incident

The green area in the center of the Towers Residence Hall during move-in day at UConn Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Storrs. (Kassi Jackson/The Hartford Courant/TNS)

A University of Connecticut fraternity has been suspended after its former president was arrested twice in the past week in connection with a hazing incident and assault.

The Lambda Theta Phi fraternity was notified Thursday that its campus chapter has been suspended and must cease operations while school officials investigate allegations of hazing, which allegedly occurred in February, according to Stephanie Reitz, a university spokesperson.

“The university takes a zero-tolerance approach to behaviors that endanger others, and is committed to providing safe, healthy and respectful environments in all UConn organizations and on UConn’s campuses,” Reitz said in a statement.

Reitz said university officials are prohibited by federal student privacy laws from disclosing whether any students may also face “conduct-related disciplinary reviews.”

Lambda Theta Phi has operated a campus chapter at UConn since 1991. Members of Lambda Theta Phi’s national executive board could not be reached for comment Thursday.

David Vallejo, 23, a former president of the Lambda Theta Phi fraternity, was arrested last week in connection with the hazing allegations and again on Tuesday in connection with an alleged assault on campus, according to the UConn Police Department.

UConn police have charged Vallejo with third-degree strangulation, disorderly conduct and third-degree assault for an incident on March 21, when police allege that Vallejo stopped a former pledge of the fraternity from breathing when he held his forearm across his neck.

The victim claimed that he met up with Vallejo after deciding he no longer wanted to be a part of the fraternity following the hazing allegations.

During the meetup on the UConn campus, the victim claimed that he returned the fraternity uniform he was given and alleged that he was assaulted when he refused to pay the rest of his initiation fee after leaving the organization.

The arrest made by campus police came days after Vallejo was arrested by Connecticut State Police in connection with the hazing allegations, which date back to February. In that case, he faces charges of disorderly conduct, third-degree assault, third-degree strangulation/suffocation and second-degree unlawful restraint.

State police said the allegations were discovered in late March when a person went to Troop C in Tolland and asked to speak with a trooper about an alleged assault that happened on Feb. 8 and 9, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Troopers learned that the victim was a UConn student and that the allegations involved the report of “hazing” that happened during the initiation process for Lambda Theta Phi at a house on Tolland Turnpike in Willington, the warrant affidavit said. The victim alleged that he was assaulted by Vallejo, who at the time was head pledge master and president of the fraternity.

According to the warrant affidavit, the victim told state police Vallejo picked him and another pledge up from their UConn dorm room on Feb. 8 during the fifth night of the initiation process and brought them to the Willington home where they were lined up “military style.” The other pledge masters were standing in front of the pledges and made them repeat what they were saying.

When the victim and another pledge were not able to recite correctly what the pledge masters were saying, they were allegedly made to do pushups and repeat what was being said again, the warrant affidavit said.

The victim claimed they had to start over again each time he grew tired and his arms gave out. He alleged that Vallejo got angry when he kept falling to the ground and, at one point, grabbed him by his pledge uniform and threw him across the room, the warrant affidavit said.

Later that same night, the victim alleged that Vallejo put his forearm against his throat and yelled at him until he started crying, at which point all of the pledges were made to recite the fraternity’s “code,” according to the warrant affidavit.

The victim told police he later noticed bruising on his arms, elbows and my kneecaps, the warrant affidavit said.

The following night, the victim said the pledges were brought back to the Willington home and were taught new information they had to recite. The victim alleged that they made to do pushups once again when they did not get it correct, according to the warrant affidavit. The victim said he began falling much sooner because of his injuries and fatigue from the previous night.

According to the warrant affidavit, the victim alleged that Vallejo told him the pain was “just an excuse” and got angry when he was making agonizing noises. He alleged that Vallejo grabbed him and threw him across the room, the warrant affidavit said.

Vallejo then allegedly told the victim he was done and to take off his uniform, but the victim said he refused to quit and was told to get back into the pushup position to recite the code correctly, the warrant affidavit said. Vallejo then allegedly put the victim up against the wall and pushed his forearm to his neck, choking him, according to the warrant affidavit. The victim told state police he took his uniform off after that and sent Vallejo a text the next day saying he was pulling out of the fraternity.

The victim went to UConn police the following month after he alleged he was assaulted again by Vallejo when he gave him back the fraternity uniform and refused to pay the rest of his initiation fee.

State police said Vallejo posted $30,000 bond when he was arrested last Friday. Following his arrest this week, Vallejo was released on a $5,000 non-surety bond. He is scheduled to appear in Rockville Superior Court on May 21 in connection with both cases.


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