NMSU student shot during November Kappa Sigma event


NMSU Kappa Sigma Fraternity was removed from campus Greek Life after November gun incident left one pledge injured.

A New Mexico State University student who pledged the Kappa Sigma fraternity chapter suffered a gunshot wound to the leg on Nov. 9, 2019 during a fraternity camping event according to police records.

Kappa Sigma has evidently been removed from NMSU Greek Life pages, and all social media has remained seemingly untouched since September 2019.

According to the Otero County Sheriff’s Office police records, the victim was identified as Jonathan Sillas, a student at NMSU studying criminal justice.

Sillas was released from Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo following his treatment.

Sillas, known as JJ, said he was pulled aside at Kappa Sigma’s fraternity initiation where a gun was pointed at him — a gun he was told wasn’t loaded.

“He put the gun to my leg or whatever and then he pulled the trigger and he didn’t think it was loaded at all, like the gun wasn’t loaded,” the police report read. “[I] moved once he pulled it and it just went like clean through my leg.”

The report identified Miguel (JR) Altamirano, an active member of Kappa Sigma, as the alleged shooter. Altamirano told police that he just pulled the gun on Sillas to “mess with him.”

“I really do like JJ so my intention was not to ever physically harm him,” the report stated. “He was one of the ones that stuck out to me and so I never intended to, it was never my intention to.. .my intention was to never physically harm him.”

According to the police report, Altamirano admitted that the incident was hazing.

“JR was asked if this was a hazing to which he stated, ‘yeah that’s the only way to put it, it was meant to just kind of just scare him, mess with him, it was never meant to harm him,’” the report reads.

Prior to this incident, NMSU recognized the Kappa Sigma chapter as a member of the inter-fraternity council, known as IFC. The IFC bylaws define hazing as:

“Any actions, behavior and situations created by any chapter or by any member – pledge, active, or alumnus – as a part of the operations of any chapter voluntarily or involuntarily involving any member(s) or potential member(s) to produce or result in mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule as a prerequisite to or as a requirement for membership or initiation to their fraternity, or which otherwise prohibited by federal, state, provincial, local or host institution policies, rules, regulations, statutes or ordinances.”

The bylaws also state that hazing is “contrary to the principles and teachings of Greek Life.”

“Guns” or “firearms” are not specifically listed in the IFC bylaws.

This incident seems to be the most recent reported hazing case in New Mexico, with the last major fraternity hazings occurring at the University of New Mexico in 2017 that brought all 22 UNM fraternities and sororities to a halt.

In 2019 alone across the U.S., the Insider reported in November that five men in fraternities died due to alcohol or hazing related incidents.

Kappa Sigma hazing related deaths can be traced back to the 1940’s, according to Hank Nuwer, a journalist known for bringing attention to hazing incidents.

According to the police report on Nov. 18, Sillas told police that he wanted to move forward in pressing charges.

Altamirano was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a fourth degree felony as well as negligent use of a firearm while under the influence of an intoxicant or narcotic, a petty misdemeanor.

A court hearing is pending a date.

JJ’s Story

“I was like okay, what’s the worst that could happen — they’re just gonna spank me with a paddle or something like that, that’s what I was thinking in my head,” Sillas told The Round Up about the night of Nov. 9.

Sillas said the night began when pledges carpooled from a lodge in Cloudcroft to a nearby campground, where they anticipated learning more about Kappa Sigma prior to their initiation planned for Sunday, Nov. 11.

“Everyone would get called one by one to hike the mountain and we were supposed to go through 11 fires and like they’re all gates, and we’ll go through the gates and once we get to the 12th gate, like the 12th gate is supposed to be here at the school where we get actually initiated,” Sillas said.

At each fire, Sillas said they would learn something about Kappa Sigma, and at one of them they were given an egg.

“What we were supposed to do with the egg is whenever we were like walking through the woods, there’s this one part where the person who shot me was at and he has like a little flashlight on his head,” Sillas said. “It’s really bright whenever he turns it on so he asked us questions about like Kappa Sigma, and there’s two dudes hiding in all black and stuff like that, and if we get it [a question] wrong he flashes the light in our eyes and they try and tackle us.”

Sillas said he didn’t get tackled because he dropped his egg on accident, and the person tackled him missed him altogether.

Sillas noted that he didn’t consider the tackling ‘hazing,’ just “rough-housing.”

Sillas said at the last fire, “at least 60 members” joined them while things were wrapping up and the boys were advised to head home to rest, but he was told to step aside.

“He [Altamirano] told me to turn around and I said no, I thought he had a paddle or something like that. I heard him unzip his bag while I was turned around, and I was like ‘oh God,’ and then he pulled out the gun and he cocked it back, like I didn’t know it was a gun, and then he cocked it back and I was like ‘oh shit,’ and then I started freaking out right there, I was like no I don’t mess with guns and stuff like that in that way,” Sillas said. “He was like just turn around, it’s not even loaded, don’t be scared, and I was like dude, no I’m not gonna do it, and he said just about everyone else did it, and I was like I don’t care if everyone else did it, I’m not everyone else.

“I didn’t expect the gun to be loaded, but still I treat every gun like it is loaded, and he put it on my leg, and he like grabbed my arm and he was like sort of pulling me towards him, and I was like no, and right whenever he put it on my leg, like he put it on my back of the leg like on my butt sort of, and I turned towards him, and he pulled the trigger and then I just remember– like I just felt like my leg just got dead-legged, so I was thinking there was a blank or something in there and it just like hit my leg pretty hard,” Sillas said.

“Then there was smoke coming out of my leg, so I started freaking out right there that and I pulled my shorts and stuff down and saw that I had a hole in my leg.”

Sillas said that he did expect light hazing heading into the event, “if it’s just rough-housing, I’m not gonna snitch them out for rough-housing, but if there’s a gun — that’s over the top right there.”

Sillas said that he had heard that some of the other pledges had the gun pointed at them, “I’m sure that everyone who got tackled got the gun put on their leg while they were being tackled, but I’m not sure how that went.”

As for how NMSU handled the situation, Sillas said administration should have taken further action.

“It’s not like the school made a big announcement about it, it’s not like they contacted all the fraternities or sororities, to tell them we [NMSU] is going to start cracking down on hazing, it’s not like they’ve done that,” Sillas said. “They’ve suspended the chapter, once that happened- I know it got removed off of campus.”

Sillas said Altamirano was suspended from NMSU for five years.

Sillas did say, however, that NMSU accommodated his injury well and ensured he got to class easily, even writing off a parking ticket he received while still on crutches.

Sillas said in the future, he hopes the university becomes more aware of dangerous situations.

“I’d like them [NMSU] to explain what happened, and that they’re gonna start cracking down on them [Greek Life]. The thing is, the school should know what they’re doing, at all times, it’s a school entity,” Sillas said. “I just think, ‘why didn’t they know we were going to Cloudcroft.’ You’d think that the school would know that we’re going to Cloudcroft– and they need, honestly, they gotta have a supervisor. I get we’re grown adults, but we’re still kids- like I got shot.”

Sillas said he hopes his story will encourage stricter hazing and gun-control rules.

“I hope people aren’t just, like blowing over it [the situation], I really want the school to crack down on hazing, plus gun-control is just getting crazy now,” Sillas said. “Literally anyone could get a gun. The thing is, they need to do more background checks, they need to be doing other stuff too.”

According to Sillas, the National Kappa Sigma Chapter insurance won’t pay out if the incident violated the chapter rules.

“Kappa Sigma can’t help me unless it’s not hazing, but I feel like it benefits me, because if everyone is lying and saying they didn’t have the gun put on them and no one knew about it until I got shot, that helps me because its more of like an intentional act, and they [Kappa Sigma] will cover it,” Sillas said.

The Kappa Sigma headquarters did not respond to comment about the incident.

Abby Howard, NMSU’s Greek Life adviser, was unable to comment when The Round Up reached out, and the Dean of Students, Ann Goodman was unavailable.

Stay tuned with The Round Up for updates on this story.

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