The mother of Anthony Nazaire, an Ithaca College student fatally stabbed on Ho Plaza in August 2016, has filed a $20 million lawsuit against Cornell University and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Delta Mu chapter, claiming that her son’s death resulted from improper planning and event supervision, along with the University violating its own security policies.
Katia Toussaint, Nazaire’s mother, wrote in the lawsuit that “as a result of the negligence on behalf of defendants, Anthony was caused to suffer physical injuries as a result of an improperly supervised, understaffed Event hosted by defendants.”
Nazaire, a 19-year-old sophomore, attended the Omega Psi Phi fraternity’s annual orientation week celebration at Willard Straight Hall on the night of Aug. 27. Shortly after the party let out in the early morning hours of Aug. 28, Nazaire was fatally stabbed and his friend, Ithaca College student Rahiem Williams, was stabbed and survived. The claim in the lawsuit is based on the low security at the event, with only one CUPD officer being present.
Nagee Green, 25, of Ithaca, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is currently being held at Attica Correctional Facility, a maximum security state prison.
Toussaint, who is represented by lawyer John Polinsky, alleges that the Cornell University Police Department’s decision to send only one officer to the event was a “violation of its policies, procedures, and standards,” and that “CUPD has assigned more than one officer to the event in years past.”
As previously reported by The Sun, the event broke up by about 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, according to the Ithaca Police Department. Authorities arrived at the scene to find Nazaire and Williams stabbed at 1:57 a.m.
David Bell, assistant director of Willard Straight Hall and community center programs at the time of the stabbing, who has since left Cornell, said in a 2016 interview with The Sun that it was typical to have two event managers and two CUPD officers present at late-night events.
It is unclear at this time what CUPD’s official policy regarding officer staffing of events was in August 2016. The new policies for event registration that were released in May also don’t clarify how many police officers are required.
In an email to The Sun on August 31, Smith relayed a statement from Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, that said, “Anthony Nazaire and his family remain very much in the thoughts of the Cornell University community” but declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Toussaint alleges in the lawsuit that the event was approved “without proper verification of the attendance” and “put the event goers in risk of physical harm/injury.”
Toussaint said the actions of Omega Psi Phi and Cornell resulted in physical injury, medical expenses, loss of income and loss of companionship, which each should result in $5 million in damages, adding up to the total of $20 million.
John Carberry, a Cornell spokesman, said the University’s lawyers will be representing Cornell Police, the University Events Management Planning Team, Cornell Police Chief Kathy Zoner and Investigator Justin Baum, the officer assigned to the event. All are named as defendants in the suit.
Other defendants include Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Delta Mu chapter, the house that hosted the event. The fraternity is “the first international fraternal organization founded on the campus of a historically black college,” and its cardinal principles are manhood, scholarship, perseverance and uplift, according to its website. Officials for the Cornell and national organizations did not respond to requests for comment.
The Sun previously reported in 2016 that the event was registered and approved by Willard Straight Hall and Cornell Police through a standard event application process and was monitored by two paid student managers — both Omega Phi Psi members — and one Cornell Police officer.
Polinsky declined to comment further on the lawsuit, but said a judge has not been assigned to the case and a date for a preliminary conference has not been set.