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USF's Pi Kappa Phi fraternity suspended amid rape investigation

TAMPA — A 16-year-old reported she was raped while she was unconscious at a University of South Florida fraternity party last weekend, leading to an arrest and the fraternity's temporary suspension.

Pi Kappa Phi fraternity threw a party at its Greek Village house Saturday night, USF officials said Tuesday. Shortly after midnight, according to an arrest affidavit, USF sophomore Dillon LaGamma had sex with the girl, who was visiting campus and was not a student at the school.

USF police got a call from a hospital on Sunday reporting an assault, spokeswoman Renna Reddick said. Their investigation led them to LaGamma, who, according to the affidavit, confirmed to police that he had sex with the girl.

Investigators said they found enough probable cause to arrest him at the police station Sunday evening.

LaGamma, 19, who is from Plantation, was released on bail the next day from the Hillsborough County Jail after his bond was set at $7,500. He faces a charge of sexual battery on a child over 12.

Florida records show this was LaGamma's first arrest. Reached by phone Tuesday, a female relative of his had no comment.

Pi Kappa Phi's national office suspended USF's chapter on Monday "to investigate alleged violations of the organization's risk management policy and standards of conduct," according to a statement.

"Pi Kappa Phi takes all incidents of sexual misconduct seriously and has instructed our students to cooperate fully with the university and local authorities as they investigate the alleged incident," said Mark E. Timmes, CEO of the national fraternity.

Provisional suspension means the fraternity cannot hold group activities such as meetings, social events and fraternity recruitment.

Meanwhile, USF Student Affairs is reviewing the incident for potential violations of the Student Code of Conduct, spokesman Adam Freeman said.

The USF chapter of Pi Kappa Phi has been active since 2012 and has 59 undergraduate members, according to the national fraternity's website.

Greek Village, where six fraternities are housed, was silent Tuesday afternoon, no students in sight. A knock at Pi Kappa Phi's door went unanswered.

Many students, walking past the Marshall Student Center, said they hadn't heard about the incident.

"I can understand this happening and it being a facet of Greek life that happens and no one talks about," said Alexis Black, a senior. But she added: "I don't know anyone (in Pi Kappa Phi), and I don't want to categorize them. I'm really not one for lumping things."

C.J. Harris, an August USF graduate who was volunteering on campus Tuesday, said he heard stories about sexual assault when he was a student. He had friends approach him, concerned about their own sexual experiences, wondering if a line had been crossed.

"I absolutely think (sexual assault) is a problem nationally," said Harris, 21. "And I heard enough stories here that never came to anything that made me suspect there was a problem here."

Messages left for the USF Interfraternity Council were not returned.

The 16-year-old had been visiting friends on campus, Reddick said. Alcohol was consumed at the party, she said, but she did not know by whom.

"We definitely take all crime seriously," Reddick said. "We just encourage students, visitors, anyone, to just always use their best judgment and to be cautious in any situation."

Reddick encouraged students who are concerned about sexual assault to take advantage of on-campus programs such as defense training and victim resources.

In 2015, USF reported three on-campus rapes or attempted rapes, a decrease from six such crimes in 2014 and 2013, and seven in 2012.

A 2014 Tampa Bay Times report found that of 19 sexual assault cases involving students that were reported to USF police in a seven-year window, just one case was prosecuted. Samuel Cesaire, a USF senior arrested in 2010 for having sex with a "physically helpless" freshman asleep in her dorm room, got 10 years probation.

Last year, the university held a day-long conference on campus rape and gender equity, warning of the "red zone" — the first 90 days of the school year, when most sexual assaults occur. USF also has hosted events such as "Walk a Mile in her Shoes" and "Take Back the Night."

"It's never enough," USF Title IX coordinator Jose Hernandez told the Times in 2015. "The more we do this work, the more people come forward."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8321. Follow @clairemcneill.

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