Content warning: This story contains depictions of alleged sexual assault.
Two former New Mexico State basketball players have sued the school, former coach Greg Heiar and three players because of the way they say they were treated as members of the team during the 2022-23 season.
In the lawsuit, Deuce Benjamin and Shakiru Odunewu detail hazing allegations that they say were “battery and sexual assault.” In one instance, Odunewu says Deshawndre Washington, Doctor Bradley and Kim Aiken Jr. pinned him down at the back of a bus and pulled his pants down while on a road trip. The three then allegedly proceeded to go further.
“Shak was held face down and could not speak due to a hand held over his mouth by one of the three,” the suit states. “He was terrified. They slapped his bare buttocks and he felt fingers inserted into his anus while his scrotum was simultaneously squeezed.”
The suit states that no one on the bus intervened to stop the three players’ alleged actions and that Heiar and his coaching staff did not turn around to see what was going on.
Benjamin details similar allegations against the three players. The complaint states “the attacks” typically happened in the locker room before workouts or practices. Benjamin also accuses Washington of demanding that Benjamin “pull your ass out” in front of young women at a team hotel on a road trip.
When Benjamin said he wouldn’t comply, Washington allegedly told him that it was a freshman initiation procedure and that if Benjamin didn’t expose his buttocks, Washington told Benjamin he would “grab your nuts.”
The lawsuit became public the day after Benjamin, a New Mexico native, said he was entering the transfer portal. His father, William Benjamin, is the head coach at Las Cruces High School.
New Mexico State suspended season in February
The suit states that Benjamin filed a complaint with New Mexico State University police on Feb. 10 and that possible charges of criminal sexual contact are still being investigated. It also states that Heiar knew as early as the end of November that abuse allegations had been made toward players on the team but “did little if anything to address the reports of abuse.”
The day Benjamin’s complaint was filed, New Mexico State shut down the men’s basketball program indefinitely for what it said were multiple reported hazing incidents. The entire NMSU coaching staff was placed on leave after the program was shut down, and Heiar was fired four days later. The team never resumed the season and finished 9-15.
New Mexico State had to make clear that the hazing allegations had nothing to do with a fatal shooting that involved New Mexico State’s Mike Peake in November. Peake was allegedly “lured” to New Mexico’s campus ahead of a game between the two teams, as UNM students allegedly planned to assault him at a residence hall.
After Peake arrived at the residence hall, he was allegedly shot in the leg by 19-year-old Brandon Travis. Peake then allegedly shot Travis four more times and killed him.
Following the shootings, police said Peake met up with three teammates and put his gun and a tablet in the back of their car before they drove off. Those three teammates are not the three players named in the lawsuit. The team bus was pulled over on the way back to Las Cruces so police could talk to coaches and team members about the shooting. According to the suit, “the bloodied tablet” was given to police after they stopped the bus and the gun Peake used in the shooting was left with an assistant coach at a hotel in Albuquerque.
The suit says the shooting “points to a lack of supervision over the players but also appears to indicate that the coaching staff was assisting the players in the covering up [of] bad behavior and thwarting police efforts.”
Heiar was in his first season in charge of the team after Chris Jans left to become Mississippi State's head coach.