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Local

Wheaton football players charged in hazing incident

WHEATON – Five Wheaton College football players have been charged in a 2016 hazing incident in which a freshman player reportedly was attacked, bound with tape and left in a field.

The players – James Cooksey, 22, of Jacksonville, Fla.; Kyler Kregel, 21, of Grand Rapids, Mich.; Benjamin Pettway, 21, of Lookout Mount, Ga.; Noah Spielman, 21, of Columbus, Ohio; and Samuel TeBos, 22, of Allendale, Mich. – have been charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint. There is a $50,000 arrest warrant for each player.

Spielman is the son of former NFL player Chris Spielman.

Kregel surrendered to the Wheaton Police Department late in the afternoon Tuesday and posted bail, according to media reports.

As of press time, the others had not yet turned themselves in to authorities.

“A specific date and time has not been set yet,” Wheaton Deputy Police Chief Bill Murphy said in an email. “They were notified of the warrants [Sept. 18] and will probably surrender before the end of the week.”

At about 11:20 p.m. March 19, 2016, Wheaton police officers responded to Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield regarding an incident that involved members of the Wheaton College football team.

The victim reported receiving serious injuries when he was attacked by five members of the team and left in a field with his limbs secured with tape.

“He was attacked by the suspects in a dorm room where he was subdued with tape,” Murphy said in an email. “His arms and legs were bound and a hood placed over his head. During this [time] his shoulders were injured. They dropped him off in a nearby baseball field.”

A second person also was hazed as part of the incident but chose not to press charges, Murphy said.

Wheaton College released a statement saying it was “deeply troubled” by the allegations.

All five players also have been suspended from practice and games, according to media reports.

“Wheaton College aspires to provide an educational environment that is not only free of hazing, but practices our values as a Christian community,” the college said in the statement. “As such, we are deeply troubled by the allegations brought by law enforcement against five members of our football team. When this incident was brought to our attention by other members of the football team and coaching staff in March 2016, the college took swift action to initiate a thorough investigation. Our internal investigation into the incident, and our engagement with an independent, third-party investigator retained by the college, resulted in a range of corrective actions. We are unable to share details on these disciplinary measures due to federal student privacy protections.”

College officials said they have fully cooperated with authorities in their investigation, and in light of the incident, the college’s Board of Trustees has engaged outside experts to review the campus’s anti-hazing policy and “the culture around how students treat one another in our campus communities, athletic teams and organizations.”

“To not impede the law enforcement investigation, the college was bound by confidentiality and unable to share more information until now,” the college said in the statement. “The conduct we discovered as a result of our investigation into this incident was entirely unacceptable and inconsistent with the values we share as human beings and as members of an academic community that espouses to live according to our Community Covenant.”

The college revised its anti-hazing policy in 2014 and improved its training protocols to “include a formal review of our anti-hazing policy with all student athletes every year, with required student signatures,” the statement reads.

The college also requires annual training for residence assistants who are responsible for residence hall activities, according to the statement.

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