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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘60 Minutes’ reports Sunday on WSU fraternity hazing death of Sam Martinez

By Linda Weiford For The Spokesman-Review

Two years after the hazing death of Washington State University student Sam Martinez, the story of what happened is about to be scrutinized by the long-running news program “60 Minutes.”

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins is among those who were interviewed as part of the segment set to be aired Sunday evening.

Martinez, a 19-year-old freshman from Bellevue, died of acute alcohol poisoning on Nov. 12, 2019, after attending a new-member hazing ritual at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. The circumstances surrounding his death propelled a police investigation that lasted more a year, a lawsuit filed by the Martinez family against the fraternity and WSU, and misdemeanor charges against 15 former fraternity members.

Martinez’s death and the Greek-life tradition of hazing moves under the spotlight of the prime-time “60 Minutes” segment airing this Sunday night at 7 p.m. on CBS. Reporting and interviews were conducted by “60 Minutes” contributor Anderson Cooper, best known as anchor of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360˚.”

The episode, titled “Hazing,” will address Martinez’s alcohol-poisoning death and how his parents “blame the fraternity, its national office and Washington State University for the death of their son,” according to the description on the CBS website.

Jenkins was interviewed by Cooper in New York City on Aug. 3. Three weeks later, a “60 Minutes” crew visited Pullman to shoot video of police headquarters, the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house whose operations were suspended by WSU until 2026, College Hill and some on-campus locations, according to Jenkins. The chief claims his department’s investigation was stymied in part by witnesses’ conflicting accounts of what happened during the fatal recruitment event.

Jenkins agreed to be a part of the “60 Minutes” segment in hopes that it will draw more national attention and scrutiny to the dangers of hazing rituals, he said.

“When fraternities are run well, they can foster friendships, leadership and community service. But the long-practiced culture of hazing has harmful repercussions, as we’ve seen,” he explained. “The Greek system needs to change.”

Besides Jenkins, the Martinez family, an attorney and other individuals will be featured on Sunday night’s segment.

Jenkins said the national attention might lead not only to increased awareness, but also to more support for a growing anti-hazing movement, similar to the mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.