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Hazing News

Morgan update–Hazing story may have been concocted

Thanks to an alert reader of this blog for the heads up:

Excerpt–
Baltimore Sun
May 23, 2007

First they told police they were shot during a gas station robbery.
Then
they told detectives they had a friend shoot them in the legs as a
ploy to
avoid the initiation rite of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity at Morgan
State
University.

Now, a third story has emerged that one of the two wounded men —
David M.
Briggs, a member of the Maryland National Guard — might have
contrived the
shooting to avoid military duty in Iraq.

Darren Jackson, a Morgan senior and a member of the fraternity,
said the
other wounded man, Philip Anderson, had told him that Briggs had
contrived
the shooting as a way to avoid being deployed to Iraq with the
National
Guard. “I guess because they were friends, because they were boys
from New
Jersey, he didn’t want to see his friend go to Iraq,” Jackson said.

He said Anderson had called Monday to apologize for besmirching the
fraternity’s name.

The National Guard, for its part, says Briggs was in no imminent
danger of
being deployed.

It is the latest twist in a double-shooting last week that has left
Morgan’s
Omega Psi Phi fraternity infuriated and has had police chasing
multiple
false leads.

Briggs, 20, of Plainfield, N.J., was arrested Monday and charged with
handgun violations and making a false police report in connection
with a
shooting late Wednesday or early Thursday that landed him and
Morgan student
Anderson, 22, in the hospital with minor gunshot wounds to the
backs of
their right legs.

When the story Briggs and Anderson told — of being held up at a
Northeast
Baltimore Hess station — unraveled in the face of security-camera
evidence
that showed they weren’t there, the pair changed their account.
Police said
the men alleged that they had asked a part-time Morgan senior, Xavier
Marshall, 24, to shoot them in the 1600 block of Arlington Ave.
near campus,
according to Detective Sgt. Greg Robinson.

Police said two .380-caliber shell casings were found at the site
during a
search.

Police have arrest warrants out for Marshall and Anderson,
officials said.
Neither they nor Briggs could be reached for comment yesterday.

After obtaining what they regarded as confessions, police summoned
the local
news media Friday to explain the young men’s startling motive:

“After interrogating the victims, it was determined that both were
Morgan
State University students pledging for a fraternity, and it was
confirmed
they didn’t wish to go through their initiation,” said lead
Detective Albert
Marcus at the news conference. “And to get out of the initiation, they
plotted a shooting with each other.”

Police declined to name the fraternity, but the department’s public
relations spokesmen joked with television news reporters at the news
conference about the fraternity supposedly involved: the “Qs” or “Q-
dogs,”
the nickname for Omega Psi Phi, a 95-year-old historically black
organization.

Police sources later confirmed the fraternity named by the shooting
victims.

Morgan officials said they were immediately skeptical of the pair’s
story.
They said they doubted that a tiny fraternity chapter known for its
community service activities — and with only nine active members on a
campus with a no-hazing policy — could inspire such an extreme
response in
would-be pledges.

Also, the statement the police extracted had too many holes, they
said. For
one, Briggs had never enrolled at Morgan, said Recardo Perry, vice
president
for student affairs. Anderson was a full-time student, but his low
grades
did not qualify him for fraternity membership, university officials
said.
And finally, there is no summer pledging — or “intake” — at the
historically black college’s fraternal organizations.

“I believe that Morgan State University had our back with this
situation,”
said Jackson, a senior from Long Island, N.Y. “But I’m upset that
[Briggs]
not only dragged my organization into this, but also put Morgan
State, on
the weekend of graduation, when we have very prominent alumni in
Baltimore
.. in a negative light.”

Jackson and Anderson were acquaintances, and the latter had informally
expressed interest in Omega Psi Phi but was not a pledge, Jackson
said. As
for the alleged shooter, Xavier Marshall, Jackson said he had never
heard of
him.

A spokesman for the Maryland Military Department confirmed
yesterday that
Briggs was an enlisted private assigned to the Soldier Readiness
Battalion
at Camp Fretterd near Reisterstown.

Briggs was a no-show May 15 for the start of about eight weeks of
“advanced
individual training,” said spokesman Quentin Banks.

After completing basic training — which Briggs had done last year
— and
advanced individual training, guardsmen are eligible for deployment
overseas, But Briggs was in no danger of being deployed anywhere
other than
Dundalk, where the 1st Battalion of the 175th Infantry Regiment is
based.
Many in that battalion will be deployed Friday to Fort Dix, N.J. —
en route
to a year in Iraq — but because Briggs hadn’t completed the necessary
training, he would have stayed behind in Dundalk for the year,
according to
Banks.

Instead, Briggs was shot.

On Friday, Briggs’ father called his son’s commanding officer with a
somewhat heroic report of the shooting in Baltimore. “Father says
Private
Briggs’ friend was being attacked by some men and he intervened,
when he got
shot in the foot and his friend was shot in the abdomen,” said Banks,
paraphrasing from the note in Briggs’ file.

“After police were called and mug shots were given to the friend
and Private
Briggs, they refused to identify the assailant for fear the
assailant would
come back and finish the job.”

Banks said Briggs could face disciplinary action from the National
Guard —
even a court-martial — once the civilian law enforcement process
runs its
course.

Robinson, the police detective, expressed frustration yesterday
when told by
a reporter that Briggs has been an enlisted guardsman since October
2006.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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