Questions regarding who, if anyone, is culpable in the death of Tucker Hipps—the Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge at Clemson who was found dead in a lake near campus Monday after going on an early morning run with fellow pledges and frat brothers—remain, but a newly released 911 call indicates that his frat's explanation was set from the beginning.
That call is embedded above, and in it a friend—whose name appears to be Cam—tells the 911 operator the same story that the university relayed to the public on Tuesday: that the frat went running early Monday morning, and when the group returned Hipps was unable to be located.
The friend opens the call by asking the operator if cops had "picked up" anyone that matches Hipps' description, but after the operator tells the friend that the police "don't just pick up people off the side of the road," they begin to discuss the manner in which Hipps disappeared. The story, again, is very similar to the university's public explanation, but there is one point in which Hipps' friend seems to be withholding details.
Almost exactly three minutes into the call, the operator asks the friend when he last saw Hipps. His response is as follows:
When we were running. Someone said that he was like—he was running with us and he said that he was, like—[pause]—there and we got back and we thought everybody made it back and he didn't.
It is in that portion, specifically at the moment where Hipps' friend pauses for a full second, where it seems like he chooses to omit details about the state in which the frat brothers and other pledges last saw Hipps.
By now, though, one figures those details will have come out, at least in private—police say they have already interviewed the 30 or so members that make up Clemson's Sig Ep chapter. But if something nefarious triggered Hipps' death—as a large number of Clemson students suspect—the police haven't indicated it.
Oconee County sheriff Mike Crenshaw said yesterday that his department is still waiting on toxicology results that might shed light on why Hipps—a fit 19-year-old with no known medical issues—fell behind the group early in a run before somehow toppling over a bridge and dying.
Regardless of what those toxicology results return, it appears as if the question of whether hazing killed Tucker Hipps will depend on what you consider hazing. As many commenters in our post from yesterday pointed out, very few fraternities have "voluntary" 5:30 a.m. Monday runs attended by over 30 people. But others, especially those that made it out of the fraternity system safe and sound, objected to the notion that such an activity even counts as hazing.
Police on the case, for their part, seem to strongly side with the latter argument.