The family of Marco Shemwell is suing the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and the ATO’s former University of Kentucky chapter. In the lawsuit, the Shemwells argue the fraternity is to blame for the tragic death of Marco outside a UK football game last fall.
Jacob Heil, the young man who was driving the vehicle that struck and killed the four-year-old boy, was an ATO pledge at the time. It is alleged that Heil, at age 18, had been drinking at an ATO tailgate earlier that day. He is charged with DUI and reckless homicide.
“The ATO Fraternity has a long and troubling history of alcohol and hazing related injuries and deaths,” said Matt Minner of Hare Wynn, the law firm representing the Shemwells. “At the time of this tragedy, ATO was still on Conduct Probation for alcohol related violations that left a student hospitalized. The national fraternity has wholly and completely failed to put a stop to this type of conduct. ATO is an organization that not only failed the Shemwell’s, but also failed it’s members and pledges– this time, young Marco was the victim.”
According to the lawsuit, Heil and several of his pledge brothers and members of the ATO fraternity were drinking at a “beer breakfast” at an off-campus house. Lexington police broke up the party at 11:15 a.m., after 1,000 beers were served and consumed. Heil allegedly drank four beers at the “beer breakfast” and continued drinking at the fraternity house. He then got behind the wheel to take people to the dorms, and the accident occurred on his way back to the fraternity house. A police report said he had a BAC of 0.051.
Alpha Tau Omega’s UK chapter shut down soon after.
Some members of the fraternity, including the chapter’s president, are also named in the lawsuit.