Student arrested in Alpha Tau Omega arson case

Ben Roper (C’18) was recently arrested for setting a fire in the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house. Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

By Richard Pryor III
Executive Staff

Last week, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) announced the indictment and arrest of Philip “Ben” Roper (C’18) for arson and reckless burning after he was found responsible for starting a fire in the Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity house on campus on February 24. Roper was previously a member of ATO until he was removed from the fraternity last semester.

On behalf of the University, Director of News and Public Relations Laurie Saxton informed The Purple that following Roper’s arrest, Dean of Students Marichal Gentry (C’89) “invoked interim administrative measures that resulted in [Roper] being suspended pending the outcome of the standard University disciplinary process.”

Saxton continued, “While the disciplinary hearing process is ongoing, [Roper] was asked to leave campus. He is still enrolled during this process, and he was asked to continue doing his class work remotely.”

Roper, originally from Richmond, Virginia, was indicted by the Franklin County Grand Jury on Friday, April 6 on one count of arson, which is a class C felony, punishable by three to 15 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

He was also indicted on one count of reckless burning, a class A misdemeanor punishable by no more than 11 months and 29 days of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Roper was then arrested and booked into the Franklin County Jail on a bond of $7,500.

Roper’s arrest was the result of a joint investigation between the TBI, the Tennessee Fire Investigation Services, the Sewanee Police Department (SPD), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

Public Information Officer Michael Knight of the ATF informed The Purple that an ATF Certified Fire Investigator “provided technical support regarding the origin and cause of the fire.”

The President of ATO, Grant Gilmore (C’19), could not be reached for comment by The Purple as of publication.