Police have found an 18-year-old man who claimed he was beaten outside a UND fraternity because of his sexual orientation was not the victim of assault, but instead say he started the fight.
Haakon Gisvold, who is not a student at UND and said he is gay, reported to police he had been at a party in late August at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, 515 Harvard St., when multiple men stripped him of his clothing and physically assaulted him while calling him homophobic slurs, which police ultimately determined did not happen, according to a news release issued by the Grand Forks County State’s Attorney’s Office Thursday afternoon.
Grand Forks and UND police officers identified more than 150 people who may have been at or near the fraternity at the time of the alleged incident. Detectives conducted interviews that led police to determine Gisvold had not been assaulted, according to the release.
A police report obtained by the Herald summarizes detectives’ findings and says multiple witnesses, including sober members of the fraternity and one of Gisvold’s friends, told police no assault had occurred as Gisvold described it.
"He was not held down by four people, he wasn't robbed, his property wasn't taken, he wasn't beaten with a belt, and he was (not) assaulted,” reads the police report.
Instead, police say Gisvold instigated a fight.
Witnesses told police Gisvold and another person, whose name was redacted from the report, got into a verbal argument over why Gisvold had just been kicked out of the fraternity, according to the police summary. The argument led to “shoving,” and witnesses alleged Gisvold ultimately grabbed the unidentified person by the hair and punched him in the head, according to the police summary.
Gisvold initially admitted to the Herald he fought a person outside the fraternity after that person pushed him.
But witnesses told police Gisvold was not subsequently held down and stripped of his clothes, but rather that he took off his own clothes and threw them “either in anger or out of frustration,” according to the police summary.
Detectives confronted Gisvold about the conclusions they had drawn from their investigation, according to the police summary, and noted Gisvold maintained he had no reason to lie, would not make up such allegations and just wanted the whole ordeal to go away.
Police sent information to the state’s attorney’s office alleging Gisvold had made false reports to law enforcement, though county prosecutors decided not to press charges against Gisvold, the release says.
Joe Price, president of the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at UND, said he and the other fraternity members were relieved by the detectives’ findings.
“We were just really relieved to have the truth come out,” he said, thanking alumni members and other Greek organizations for their support during the investigation.
In the aftermath of the allegations, some Lambda Chi members felt apprehensive about wearing the fraternity’s letters around town, Price said, adding a stigma had been attached to the fraternity.
Police did not find any evidence of derogatory or discriminatory conduct by any Lambda Chi Alpha chapter members, and the fraternity’s members were “fully cooperative” with the investigation, according to the news release.
The police summary says Gisvold went to a party at the fraternity on Aug. 29 after boarding a party bus, as Gisvold initially told the Herald early last month.
Witnesses told police Gisvold was making people at the party feel “uncomfortable,” though the police summary does not say why. The summary suggests Gisvold’s clothing made people feel uncomfortable, since the sentence prior notes Gisvold was wearing a sleeveless, American-themed tank top and red spandex shorts.
The summary says fraternity members kicked Gisvold out of the house after he tried to smoke a cigarette inside the house, which the report noted was “strictly prohibited.”
At least one witness told police Gisvold tried to “debate” why he was being asked to leave, suggesting he was being kicked out because he was gay, according to the police summary.
Gisvold was then taken outside of the house, where he continued to argue about why he had been thrown out and eventually punching a person in the head in a verbal and physical altercation, the police summary says.
One witness did tell police he or she heard someone call Gisvold a homophobic slur in response to Gisvold “egging on” the person.
Then, the summary alleges, Gisvold started arguing again with the person he had punched and then allegedly punched him again, at which point Price, the chapter president, called the police and everyone fled.
A message left for Gisvold’s father, Dan, who initially alerted the Herald to the incident, was not returned by press time.