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

Friends remember WSU student Luke Tyler as police investigation unfolds; fraternity scrutinized

Luke Tyler died in his WSU dorm in January.  (Courtesy)
By Nick Gibson For The Spokesman-Review

Luke Tyler’s friends will always remember him for his smile.

“It’s almost like you get addicted to it,” said Tyler’s friend, Yousuf Elswify. “His smile is contagious, you know? You just want to be around that all the time.”

On Jan. 22, 19-year-old Tyler was found dead in his dorm room at Washington State University. The cause and manner of death have not been determined, and Whitman County Coroner Annie Pillers said it could take weeks.

Tyler’s friends who know each other from the Redmond, Washington, area hope he is remembered for the person they all grew to love as they wait for more information to come forward when the autopsy results are finished, which includes a toxicology report.

Tyler graduated from Woodinville High School in 2022 and was a freshman pledge of the Theta Chi fraternity at WSU. His friend, Artemiy Thayer, 19, said Tyler was a competitive bodybuilder with a love of the outdoors and a knack for finding adventure.

Tyler was one of the kindest and most supportive friends he’s known, Thayer said.

Just a few weeks after meeting, Thayer said he got a glimpse of Tyler’s kind and helpful nature. Tyler was working at a public pool in the area and, after hearing Thayer needed a job, Tyler immediately wanted to help.

“I ran into him at the pool and literally that same day he wrote me, to the boss, one of the nicest and most caring recommendations I think I’ve ever seen,” Thayer said. “Even for a guy he just barely met a few times, he really took all the time out of his day.”

Claire Williams, 16, said Tyler also had a propensity for inspiring others.

Thayer, Williams and the rest of Tyler’s friends would often go bridge jumping near their hometown of Redmond, although Williams said she never had the courage to jump. The group took a trip to their favorite spot for her birthday last year where Tyler inspired her to take the leap.

“He told me, ‘No matter what happens, I’ll be right here and I’ll jump in right after you,’ ” Williams said. “And I jumped. He was just really good at giving those pep talks.”

Trevor Michalski received a few of those pep talks after a tough loss in a Muay Thai fighter match.

“Luke walked up to me and he put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Look, man, we all take wins and losses in life, but it’s how we come back from them that defines who we are as a person,’ ” Michalski said. “I just never forgot that.”

Williams and Michalski said their group of friends has turned to each other for support since Tyler’s death.

“You can’t really explain until you’re there, but you have comfort in being around the people that you know loved him as much as you did,” Williams said.

Elswify organized a GoFundMe campaign to cover funeral costs for the Tyler family that received more than $11,000 in donations before he closed it at the family’s request.

“We don’t even have words to explain it, just gratefulness really,” Elswify said. “And this is coming from the family as well. They’re extremely grateful for everyone’s love and support, all the kind messages that we’ve been receiving from all over.”

Tyler’s mother, Colleen Tyler, said in a statement posted to the GoFundMe page that any excess donations will go toward a cause or charity Luke cared about.

“We are looking into options that will allow us to pay his legacy of kindness forward,” she wrote.

The friends also set up an online petition calling for the Theta Chi fraternity to be investigated in light of Tyler’s death. The petition had garnered nearly 12,000 signatures as of Tuesday evening.

“It’s all one group and we’re in contact with the family and an attorney,” Elswify said. “I can’t speak more on it, but we’re doing our best and we’re cooperating 100% with the police investigation.”

Matthew Brandjes, another friend, said he is eager for more information to be released in the coming weeks. In the meantime, he wants Tyler to be remembered.

“Just listening to his laugh was always the best,” Williams said. “He always had so much love to give.”