Junior fraternity member suspended

WUPD confiscates two firearms found on campus owned by Phi Delta Theta brother, fraternity permanently suspended on unrelated charge

| Contributing Reporter

Washington University suspended junior Chandler Elmore, the Phi Delta Theta member found in possession of two firearms on campus. Washington University Police Department discovered the weapons—an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon kept in the Phi Delt house and a handgun found in a vehicle parked in an on-campus parking lot—in a search Tuesday.

Later on Tuesday, the same day as Elmore’s suspension, the University announced that Phi Delt is permanently suspended. According to Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Jill Friedman, the decision to permanently suspend the fraternity was based on violations of a prior deferred suspension, not the discovery of the firearms.

St. Louis County Police and Washington University Police Department cars sit outside the Phi Delta Theta house Tuesday afternoon. WUPD searched and found guns in the house after receiving an anonymous tip that a member of the fraternity possessed firearms which were kept in the on-campus house.Skyler Kessler | Student Life

St. Louis County Police and Washington University Police Department cars sit outside the Phi Delta Theta house Tuesday afternoon. WUPD searched and found guns in the house after receiving an anonymous tip that a member of the fraternity possessed firearms which were kept in the on-campus house.

Multiple sources confirmed that the guns belonged to Elmore. According to junior and Phi Delt Vice President Josh Prueter, the members of the fraternity knew Elmore owned an AR-15, which Prueter said Elmore had owned since October, and that he kept a handgun in his car. However, Prueter said Phi Delt members believed Elmore’s car was kept parked off campus.

“We knew he owned a gun; we didn’t know it was in the house. He purchased the gun in late October, first semester. [Several members] saw a video of it; most guys did not see it in person. [Several executive members] confronted him personally…and made it clear the gun could not be in the house,” Prueter said. “This was immediately after Thanksgiving break.”

According to Friedman, Elmore is no longer on campus and will not be allowed on campus for the duration of his suspension.

“That is the term of his suspension, and he and his family understand that. We have been given no reason to believe that is something we should be concerned about,” Friedman said. “However, we will continue to monitor the campus as we always do.”

Elmore violated multiple University policies, including Residential Life policy and Campus Life policy, which prohibits the possession and storage of any firearm or deadly weapon on campus—including in fraternity houses and in vehicles parked in University parking lots.

Student Life made initial communication with Elmore for comment but was unable to agree to terms for an interview.

An anonymous source called University administration with a tip that a member of Phi Delt was in possession of a firearm after 3 p.m., Monday, Feb. 19. That night, two anonymous sources were called into the WUPD station to provide information, including a photo posted to social media of the firearm.

In the photo, obtained by Student Life, a student is holding the AR-15 semi-automatic in a room with a Phi Delta Theta flag partially visible. Student Life later received a second photo of the firearm, taken from Elmore’s Instagram story.

Chancellor Mark Wrighton sent a school-wide email regarding the situation Tuesday evening.

“There was no active threat; however, this put at risk members of our University community and is a very serious violation of University policy,” Wrighton wrote.

As a result of the permanent suspension, which mandates that members vacate the fraternity house, the residents of the Phi Delt house are being moved to other Residential Life housing options.

Student Life reached out to multiple students living in Residential Life housing for comment on Phi Delt members moving into residential housing; however, many declined to comment. Three specifically cited concerns for their safety.

“I would not be comfortable if those directly involved with the scandal could potentially be my neighbors down the hall,” an anonymous source said. “In my opinion, there is absolutely no need for students to own such dangerous weapons, especially not under lock or on campus.”

Although some students have expressed concerns with Phi Delt as a whole, Prueter said that students should not judge members of Phi Delt on the basis of the incident.

“What some people are depicting us as and some of the words they’re using to describe us on social media are completely false and, in some cases, are extremely offensive,” he said.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Rob Wild added that he believes none of the members of Phi Delt pose a threat to the Washington University community.

“The University would not move anybody into student space if they presented any type of concern to the community,” Wild said. “The student who we found had a weapon in the house was temporarily suspended, and there was no evidence that any other students in the house were involved in activity that would put anyone in the community at risk.”

In addition to communication from the chancellor, Student Union sent an email providing mental health and emergency resources to the student body Wednesday afternoon. According to SU Speaker of the Senate and junior Brian Adler, SU felt the need to respond quickly and comment on student concerns.

“We knew people were scared,” Adler wrote to Student Life. “We felt as though we’d appreciate, as students, knowing what resources are available and that our student government understands and recognizes our concerns.”

Senior Allie Liss, a former intern with the Gun Violence Initiative through the Washington University Institute for Public Health, said she believes that the event was disturbing.

“I definitely found the incident disconcerting,” Liss said. “I definitely feel safer with [campus] regulations in place.”

Phi Delt was initially placed on a deferred suspension following an investigation of a hazing incident that occurred in spring 2017. While the administration said violations of the terms of the deferred suspension led to the permanent suspension, Friedman did not specify what the specific violations were.

“The permanent suspension was based on the violation of the terms of the temporary suspension. In that way, it was made on factors unrelated to this incident,” Friedman said.

However, Prueter believes the suspension is directly related to the police finding Elmore’s firearms.

“It’s obviously not coincidental that this most recent incident corresponded with the timing of our permanent suspension. Clearly, this is what caused our removal from campus,” Prueter wrote to Student Life. “We understand the school’s frustration regarding the alleged social events. However, we also have frustrations and complaints regarding the way the school handled the initial investigation (which prompted our original suspension) and subsequent investigations that they conducted.”

Wild agrees with Friedman that the permanent suspension was decided upon based on evidence of Phi Delt violating their temporary suspension terms.

“The chapter was suspended following allegations that they violated the terms of their temporary suspension,” Wild said. “The University was provided with evidence that they had violated those expectations and, as a result, decided to take them off of temporary suspension and move them to a status of suspension, meaning the house is closed and they’re not recognized on the Washington University campus.”

Additional reporting by Ella Chochrek, Danielle Drake-Flam, Olivia Szymanski, Elena Quinones and Emma Baker.

Phi Delta Theta’s president, junior Tom Hutchison, could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Editor’s Note: Desi Isaacson is a member of Sigma Chi. This article has been updated to correct that the anonymous source, who left a message expressing a hope to talk with administrators on the morning of Feb. 19, did not make contact until after 3 p.m.

  • Norman Pressman

    I guess this is just another instance of a “few bad apples” or maybe its poisonous tree?