Pi Kappa Alpha at Cal State Chico has been charged with cutting and damaging 32 trees in the Lassen National Forest during an initiation ceremony for new pledges.
According to Nancy Barrera, a spokeswoman for the Lassen National Forest, the university’s PIKE chapter and its president, Evan Jossey, are facing 32 counts of cutting or damaging any timber, which was destroyed at the Deer Creek Trailhead campground during the weekend of April 21.
The fraternity was charged with possessing a firearm and conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States.
Camper Jon Elam told authorities he was visiting the campsite during the weekend of April 21 when saw about 80 people there, according to the federal complaint. He was then greeted by Jossey and three other men who introduced themselves as members of a Chico State fraternity, federal authorities said. The men told him they would be participating in an initiation ceremony that night.
He later heard gunshots and people chopping down trees, federal authorities said. The next morning, Elam discovered several trees had been chopped down at the students’ campsite. Elam told authorities he packed up his belongings and left the campsite.
According to the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office, deputies received a report from Elam on April 28 that a group of college-aged adults left “large volumes of litter,” had cut down trees and were trespassing into closed areas of the refuge. He returned to the campsite on April 27 and found garbage everywhere and freshly chopped trees.
The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity issued a statement on Wednesday, May 17, saying its Lambda Psi chapter at Chico State has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation:
“Lambda Psi Chapter and its members are expected to fully cooperate with authorities in this matter,” the organization said. “The fraternity does not condone the allegations made in this complaint and will revisit the permanent status of the chapter and its members at the conclusion of the federal process.”
The Lambda Psi chapter has denied any involvement in the incident, going so far as filing a police report against the individual making the allegations.
Patti Waid, a university spokeswoman, said the fraternity is temporarily suspended from the campus and that the university was investigating the claims to determine who was responsible for the vandalism.
“Regardless of who perpetrated the vandalism, the act in and of itself is completely unacceptable,” she said. “As members of the Chico community, we believe an affront like this is an affront to us all.”