A fraternity chapter at the University of Mississippi was indefinitely suspended Friday by its national organization and three of its freshman members were kicked out because of their suspected involvement in hanging a noose on a statue of James Meredith, the first black student to enroll in the then all-white college in Oxford, Miss.
In a statement, Sigma Phi Epsilon said it suspended the Alpha Chapter at Ole Miss and the chapter voted to expel all three men and turn over their identities to investigators.
On Sunday, police found a noose tied around the neck of the statue, along with an old Georgia flag with a Confederate battle emblem in its design.
When Meredith tried to enter Ole Miss in fall 1962, Mississippi's governor tried to stop him. That led to violence on the Oxford campus.
The FBI said Friday it planned to expand the vandalism investigation for potential violations of federal law.
"It is embarrassing that these men had previously identified with our fraternity," said Brian Warren Jr., CEO of Sigma Phi Epsilon. "SigEp as a national fraternity has championed racial equality and issues on diversity since 1959 when it became the first national fraternity to invite members of all races, creeds and religions to join."
The university tried Friday to question three white students in connection with the vandalism but their attorneys would not allow that to happen without arrest warrants. The three have not been identified.
University spokesman Danny Blanton said the school's findings have been turned over to the District Attorney's Office. He said the university will also proceed with internal disciplinary action through a judicial panel that consists of both faculty and students.
The university is satisfied that the three students are responsible for the statue's desecration, Blanton said.