SALT LAKE CITY — A University of Utah fraternity has been suspended after a weekend incident at Hogle Zoo where members caused considerable damage during the park's popular BooLights event.
In a post to social media Monday, the zoo shared pictures of the destruction left behind by the university's Sigma Chi fraternity.
The zoo holds BooLights each year around Halloween, offering train rides, mazes and other holiday decorations in a special after-hours event. Hogle Zoo says fraternity members purchased all 150 tickets available for the Saturday night time slot they attended.
However, once the members arrived, they caused destruction throughout the zoo.
"They then drank and smashed bottles and cans in our parking lot, broke NUMEROUS Halloween decorations - punching out faces of carved re-useable pumpkins (all of which will need to be re-carved), and broke wooden fencing throughout the Zoo." the zoo wrote on its Facebook post.
Zoo security was forced to close the event an hour early after a Sigma Chi member allegedly threatened a park employee by flashing a pocketknife.
Hogle Zoo accused the fraternity members of causing widespread damage and lost revenue after the park was forced to shut down. Staff was called in to clean the zoo and refunds were given to families at the event that were not part of the fraternity's group.
"This was unacceptable behavior and we're quite disappointed in our neighbors." the zoo wrote.
The zoo later posted an update it had been contacted by the university and fraternity, with Sigma Chi saying the organization is committed to "making things correct." Officials say they were also contacted by other fraternities who also offered their help.
Sigma Chi issued a statement to its Instagram page Monday, apologizing for the actions of its members.
"...we are extremely disappointed in what has occurred on Saturday night the 17th of October at Hogle Zoo. We are doing everything in our power to investigate any misconduct that has taken place. We will make sure that those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions."
View this post on Instagram
To the General Public, On behalf of Sigma Chi at the University of Utah, we are extremely disappointed in what has occurred on Saturday night the 17th of October at @hoglezoo . We are doing everything in our power to investigate any misconduct that has taken place. We will make sure that those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions. Please forward any pertinent information to help us find those responsible.
Sigma Chi's national headquarters has placed the chapter on temporary suspension as it investigates what happened at Hogle Zoo.
"All Sigma Chi members and chapters are expected to conduct themselves at all times with the highest standards and to be good community partners and citizens." said Michael Church, Executive Director of Sigma Chi's International Headquarters. "Anyone found to have violated Sigma Chi’s membership policies and standards will be held accountable, face disciplinary action, and be required to make appropriate restitution."
In the zoo's updated post, it added that death threats had been made towards the fraternity following its original post.
"We were dismayed [the original post] turned to people tracking down students on social media and sending mean messages, even death threats. We regret it took that turn and apologize to anyone inadvertently implicated - that was never our intention."
Police say an investigation into what occurred at the zoo is still in its early stages.