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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — One day after a student fell from a bridge and died during a run with his fraternity brothers, Clemson University suspended activities for all of its fraternities, citing reports of alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct but stopping short of tying the ban to the death.
Oconee County deputies said Wednesday that there is no evidence Tucker Hipps' death was a result of hazing, but they are still trying to piece together what happened. Officials haven't found anyone who saw him fall Monday, sheriff's office spokesman Jimmy Watt said.
Hipps, 19, was running with fellow Sigma Phi Epsilon members before dawn when he fell behind, authorities said. Fraternity members noticed Hipps wasn't at breakfast and reported him missing to university police at 1:45 p.m. His body was found under the bridge just west of campus a few hours later, according to deputies and university officials. They say he apparently fell more than 20 feet from a state highway bridge over the Seneca River to the shallow water below.
On Tuesday, the university imposed a ban on social activities for all 24 fraternities on campus. In a written statement, Vice President for Student Affairs Gail DiSabatino cited reports of possible criminal activities and violations of the university's code of conduct — ranging from alcohol-related medical emergencies to sexual misconduct — for the move.
DiSabatino said it was especially prudent to suspend the activities after Hipps' tragic death, but did not say the incident was responsible for or related to the ban.
Asked for specifics on criminal investigations involving fraternities, university police sent The Associated Press two heavily redacted police reports on off-campus sexual assaults, one dated Aug. 15 and the second dated Aug. 30. The reports provided few details and gave no direct link to fraternities.
The suspension is intended to give fraternities time to work with other student and campus organizations to make sure members stay safe, university spokesman John Gouch said.
"They didn't want to put a deadline on it because they wanted to give everyone plenty of time to think," Gouch said. Clemson placed similar restrictions on Greek organizations four years ago, also after allegations of criminal activities
Students organized an impromptu vigil honoring Hipps on Tuesday, raising cellphones above their heads instead of candles. University President Jim Clements joined the remembrance and said everyone who knew Hipps called him a leader and a good man.
Detectives have interviewed about 50 people so far, including the fraternity members running with Hipps who have been cooperative, Watt said.
"We haven't talked to anyone who saw him fall," Watt said. "We don't know why he ended up in the water."
The national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization said in a written statement that if foul play was involved in Hipps' death, it would make sure those responsible are brought to justice.
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