NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Charges will be filed in the death of a Baruch College student who was blindfolded and forced to run a gauntlet with a heavy weight on his back as part of a fraternity ritual, a Pennsylvania prosecutor said Thursday.
Monroe County District Attorney David Christine said he won’t decide on which charges to file until the police investigation into Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng’s death is finished.
The 19-year-old freshman and pledge at Pi Delta Psi died Monday while at a weekend retreat with about 30 fraternity members at a rented house in the Poconos.
Authorities said Deng suffered major brain trauma while “partaking in a ritual in the yard” of the house in Tunkhannock Township.
Deng, one of four pledges, was injured during an initiation game called the “glass ceiling,” in which pledges are blindfolded and a bowling ball-type weight is put into a bag and tied to their backs, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.
They are then forced to run a gauntlet while others try to tackle them. Police sources told Brown Deng was knocked down several times during the game, causing his injuries.
But instead of calling 911 immediately, they brought him into the house and “after some time,” drove him to an emergency room 30 miles away, authorities said.
According to authorities, Deng was surrounded by his frat brothers when he was hurt. He was unconscious and unresponsive when fraternity members carried him into the house, according to the affidavit.
Invesitgators said that Deng was covered in scratches and bruises and had suffered swelling to the back of his head, CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported.
Deng’s clothes were changed and all fraternity memorabilia was thrown away as some fraternity members searched the Internet for information on Deng’s injuries, the affidavit said.
A source told CBS 2 that an hour and a half to two hours went by before Deng was taken to the hospital.
Doctors put Deng on life support, but he died hours later. Doctors said Deng was brain dead when he arrived at the hospital, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported Thursday evening.
Toxicology and alcohol tests came back negative.
Some students at Baruch said they’ve never heard of any hazing involving the fraternity.
“It’s just surprising,” said student Andrew Lizardi. “I mean hazing — I didn’t think that was going to happen.”
“I think they should be broken up as a fraternity, just for that, because I think that’s so wrong and it shouldn’t be allowed at all,” said student Josh Solomowitz.
Others who knew Deng said they were shocked to learn of his death.
“According to my friends, he had a great sense of humor and he was really pleasant to be around,” said one of Deng’s acquaintences “Just thought about how crazy life is, how terrible things happen when we don’t expect it.”
Deng’s friends have flooded Facebook with messages.
“I can’t manage to hold back the tears anymore. I remember seeing you just a few weeks ago over Thanksgiving Break,” one friend wrote.
The fraternity’s national website reads: “The primary mission of Pi Delta Psi has been to spread Asian American Cultural awareness in an effort to empower the entire Asian American community.”
In a statement, Pi Delta Psi’s National Executive President Andy Meng condemned the incident, saying it happened during “an unsanctioned event that was strictly prohibited by our organization.”
Meng said the fraternity has suspended all new member education nationwide until further notice as it investigates the incident and said it is “working closely with the appropriate entities involved.”
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Michael and request privacy during this period,” Meng said. “Michael will be greatly missed.”
Baruch College administrators said the school had no knowledge of the weekend retreat or even that Pi Delta Psi was rushing a pledge class.
“Baruch College has a zero tolerance policy regarding hazing,” the school said in a statement. “Michael’s death is a deeply painful reminder that no individual should ever be put into a position where his or her personal safety is in jeopardy.”
On Thursday, the school said all rights and privileges of the fraternity on Baruch’s campus have been suspended.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Stephen Reich said hazing continues to be a problem among college students because of the basic human need of wanting to fit in.
“The need to be included is absolutely profound,” Reich told CBS 2’s Don Champion. “Based upon the sense that ‘on my own, I’m not enough and, therefore, I need the social inclusion.'”
The exact nature of Deng’s injuries still aren’t clear. Police are investigating and so far, no charges have been filed.
Deng was from Queens and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science.
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