(Oxford, MS) For the first time, representatives of a fraternity at Ole Miss are speaking out about three now former members accused of putting a noose and an old Georgia flag on the statue of a civil rights icon.
Sigma Phi Epsilon said it turned the trio into authorities and kicked them out of the fraternity immediately after it happened.
"The fact these three individuals were able to achieve membership in our organization is extremely troubling," said Sigma Phi Epsilon CEO Brian Warren.
What makes it even more disappointing and embarrassing for Warren is where it happened: the Ole Miss campus.
Across the country, the school in Oxford still has a black eye over its segregation policy into the 1960s and a list of problems ever since.
"I'm appalled. I'm hurt," said Warren. "I think our chapter is right to immediately expel these members. It was good they acted swiftly. It was right they turned over the names of the individuals to investigating authorities."
Warren flew into Oxford after he heard three members draped a noose and an Old Georgia flag on the James Meredith statue two weeks ago.
Meredith was the first African American to go to Ole Miss in 1962, and his enrollment sparked a riot on campus.
"The fraternity was the first to find out, and they were the ones that brought the names forward," said Warren. "I know the values when the fraternity is done right, when Sig Ep is done right. It is a very impressive thing. To see it like this, it's hurtful."
Warren said he is working to find out more about these guys. He knows they are 19-year-old freshmen from Georgia. They were not pledges, and he says this wasn't an act of hazing.
No one is releasing their names, but we do know the trio was kicked out of the fraternity immediately and could be expelled from the university.
Since there was no physical harm done to the statue, police said they cannot charge the three men with vandalism.
The university said it is pursuing federal hate crime charges.
"We did everything we could to hold them accountable," said Warren, and he's holding the rest of the fraternity responsible. He suspended the chapter until he can find out how these guys got in.
"We do not intend to have them resume operations until we are confident they represent the best of Sigma Phi Epsilon and the best of Ole Miss," said Warren.
Warren said thousands of alumni from across the country are furious fellow members could deface a monument that signifies diversity.
Now the question is: do federal investigators find it hurtful enough to file hate crime charges?