Chief: Not Everyone Cooperating With Baruch Student Death Investigation
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A police chief in Pennsylvania investigating how a Baruch College student died after taking part in a fraternity ritual says not everyone who may have been involved is cooperating with authorities.
The Luzerne County Coroner said a preliminary autopsy report showed Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng died of “closed head injuries due to blunt force trauma.”
The 19-year-old freshman and pledge at Pi Delta Psi died Monday while at a weekend retreat at a rented house in the Poconos with about three dozen fraternity members.
“Throughout this entire process, it’s taken a long time to figure out what exactly happened because people have not been straightforward with us,” Chief Harry Lewis with the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department told CBS 2.
“You would think that if a friend or someone is trying to pledge your organization and they’re preaching friendship, trust and brotherhood — is that they would come forward because a friend or brother died,” Lewis added.
Authorities are in the process of interviewing about 30 people and are expected to file dozens of criminal charges, saying they’ll prosecute anyone who was involved in what they describe as a hazing ritual.
According to a police affidavit, Deng, one of four pledges, suffered major brain trauma Sunday during an initiation ritual called the “glass ceiling.”
Police said Deng was blindfolded and wearing a backpack loaded with 20 pounds of sand when he was forced to run a gauntlet while fraternity brothers physically tried to keep him from passing through by repeatedly shoving him to the ground.
“For this pledge they were very physical and that’s what we’re trying to determine, just the repeated acts of violence against him,” Lewis said.
Deng was left “unconscious and unresponsive immediately after he fell” with “scratches and bruising on his knees,” according to the affidavit. Investigators said Deng also had swelling to the back of his head.
At least one neighbor reported hearing loud yelling outside around the time of the ritual. Another neighbor told CBS 2′s Don Champion he is troubled by what happened.
“Come up here, rent the house, come skiing, you know, don’t go and haze.,” Jim Tobey said.
Instead of calling 911, police said the frat brothers carried Deng inside and placed him by the fire, searched the Internet for his symptoms and changed his clothes, CBS 2′s Kathryn Brown reported.
Then after waiting at least an hour and a half, three of the brothers drove him to a hospital 30 miles away, authorities said. There, Deng’s mother arrived to find her son brain-dead and on life support. He died hours later.
Police said one of the brothers made a phone call from the hospital directing others back at the house to get rid of all fraternity items and another admitted to being the “pledge educator” in charge of Deng during the ritual, Brown reported.
Toxicology and alcohol tests for Deng came back negative. It’s unclear whether any other members of the fraternity were tested for drugs or alcohol at the time.
Baruch College administrators said the school had no knowledge of the weekend retreat or even that Pi Delta Psi was rushing a pledge class.
Nationally, Pi Delta Psi has had hazing problems in recent years, CBS 2 has learned. Last year, the University of Florida chapter was suspended because of hazing. In spring of 2009 the Cornell University chapter was also put on provisional status after video tape surfaced of a pledge being hazed.
“If you’re trying to make promises of a brotherhood fraternity to help each other, doing these acts in order to be that, I don’t think it’s worth it at all,’ Lewis said.
Pi Delta Psi also said the event was “unsanctioned” and “strictly prohibited by our organization.”
The fraternity is now suspended from Baruch College and the organization has suspended new pledging nationwide while it conducts its own investigation into what happened.
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