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Three Iowa State fraternity members accused of assault, extorting brother for sex
‘This had been a culmination of what he described as bullying behavior’
Three members of one of Iowa State University’s oldest and biggest fraternities — including its vice president — are being investigated for allegedly ordering one of their housemates and fraternity brothers to perform a sex act upon threat of violence, according to a series of criminal complaints filed this month.
The nearly century-old FarmHouse Fraternity chapter, in a statement posted to social media Friday, said the three members arrested this month on suspicion of felony extortion, second-degree harassment and assault have been placed on inactive status pending the criminal investigation.
“They no longer reside in the chapter facility and may not attend any event associated with the fraternity until further notice,” according to the statement. “FarmHouse has zero tolerance for assault or any conduct that violates a state and/or local law.”
Criminal complaints against FarmHouse members Grant Kuehnast, 21, of Humboldt; Colton Moore, 20, of Randolph; and Tyler Ekstrom, 20, of Sycamore, Ill., were filed May 4 — with warrants issued and served in the days that followed. All were released to parents or guardians, according to the Ames Police Department.
Each one faces a trio of charges tied to an incident police said occurred at 10 p.m. Jan. 31 in the 311 Ash. Ave. FarmHouse Fraternity house, east of Ames’ Campustown area.
The victim, according to search warrant documents, told investigators that when he went to his room that night, he found Kuehnast and Moore on his bed. Irritated, the victim decided to sleep on a couch or futon in his study room, but Kuehnast, Moore and Ekstrom followed him there.
“The victim and all three defendants in the case confirmed they were in the room at the time of the incident and of what occurred,” according to the search warrant affidavit.
The suspects are accused of ordering the victim to perform a sex act on one of them “or else he would be shot in the face and groin with an air soft gun,” according to police.
“While in the room with the victim, an air soft gun was brandished,” police reported, accusing Kuehnast of pointing the gun at the victim and threatening him. “He told the victim to commit a sex act on another defendant or he would be shot.”
When the victim refused, Kuehnast started counting down, according to police. When he reached zero, “He fired the gun multiple times at the victim, putting him in fear of being injured,” according to police. “The defendant and other defendants admitted to doing this to the victim and stated that the air soft gun would hurt and can cause injuries.”
The victim asked Ekstrom for help “since he was the vice president of the fraternity and the risk manager.” But Ekstrom replied, “I’m just here to make sure you don’t get shot,” according to the police report.
After firing the gun, the three suspects started laughing and left the room, according to police. The victim, terrified, told officers, “This had been a culmination of what he described as bullying behavior mostly from Kuehnast.”
He outlined other bullying — including being flipped out of his bunk on several occasions and being called names — according to the police report.
After the incident, the defendant said Moore sent him a message via Snapchat apologizing “for what happened” and saying “they had gone too far,” police reported.
The victim said he felt unsafe at the house and left it in early February. When he didn’t return to school, according to the search warrant documents, “Kuehnast and Ekstrom reached out to him via Snapchat and phone to check on him.”
ISU officials said they could not answer The Gazette’s questions about whether administrators are investigating the fraternity.
“Iowa State University takes these issues seriously,” according to an ISU statement. “However, due to federal student privacy laws, the university cannot comment on the existence or outcome of an investigation of an individual student or student organization.”
The only ISU fraternities sanctioned in the last academic year were Theta Xi and Alpha Tau Omega. Although officials didn’t spell out details of those offenses, both chapters had to draft apologies.
ISU Greek life
The percentage of ISU undergraduates joining one of the 60 fraternity, sorority or multicultural chapters associated with the campus has been dropping in recent years — dipping just below 14 percent in fall 2022, down from 15 percent in fall 2021 and nearly 17 percent in fall 2017.
While both the number of men and women involved has been sliding, female participation has seen a sharper decline — falling 41 percent from 2,747 in 2017 to 1,610 in the most recent fall. Male participation over that period fell 19 percent from 2,357 to 1,901 in fall 2022.
Each chapter must regularly report membership details regarding grade-point average, community service hours, philanthropy and student conduct violations.
ISU’s FarmHouse Fraternity for the last five semesters has ranked No. 1 on the Interfraternity Council Academic Report, with its 98 members in fall 2022 averaging a best 3.51 GPA. After bylaws violations in March 2019, though, the FarmHouse fraternity was ordered to receive event training and in the last academic year was prohibited from holding events with alcohol.
The agriculturally-rooted ISU Farmhouse chapter dates to 1920, when the FarmHouse National Secretary began investigating opening an Ames chapter, according to the organization’s website. After receiving approval from the Intercollegiate Council, a small group established a temporary fraternity in 1923 until achieving official FarmHouse designation in 1927.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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