Police investigating the death of a college freshman last week now allege that his fraternity brothers initially tried to hide the true cause of his fatal injury. Chun “Michael” Deng, a 19-year-old freshman at Baruch College in New York City died last weekend as a result of a massive head injury that he suffered while allegedly taking part in a hazing ritual with his fraternity.
Approximately 20 to 30 brothers of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity were reportedly attending a weekend retreat in rural Pennsylvania when the fatal injury took place. Deng was one of four pledges in attendance. The incident that apparently led to his death allegedly involved Deng being blindfolded while made to carry a 20 pound bag of sand and enduring tackling by his fraternity brothers. At some point he was knocked to the ground and hit his head.
According to Pocono County Regional Police Chief, Harry Lewis, Deng did not receive medical treatment for his injuries until approximately two hours after they occurred. His fraternity brothers reportedly took him inside after he fell and became unconscious, but they did not call for emergency help right away. Instead, it seems that they changed his clothes and sought medical advice pertaining to his symptoms from the internet.
According to Lewis, after about an hour Deng was driven to a local hospital. He was apparently brain dead upon his arrival. Reportedly, one of those who was with Deng at the hospital called back to the house where the other fraternity brothers were staying and instructed them to get rid of anything that would link Deng to the fraternity, thus beginning the pattern of attempting to hide the true cause of Deng’s fatal hazing injury.
Lewis further reports that it was only after lengthy interrogation that some of the fraternity brothers admitted that Deng’s injury was tied to a fraternity ritual. Their initial story was that Deng merely slipped and fell while out walking in the snow. Some other brothers reportedly left the site of the retreat prior to being interviewed by police. They are still being sought for questioning.
Criminal charges have not yet been filed in the case, but a local prosecutor has reportedly said they will be coming. Those charges could range from reckless endangerment to manslaughter. Drugs and alcohol were also found at the location of the fraternity report, according to police, and were seized along with fraternity initiation documents and approximately 25 cell phones belonging to those in attendance.
Officials at Baruch College say the fraternity has been suspended pending further investigation and deny any knowledge of the initiation ritual involved. A representative from the national Pi Delta Psi organization says that they are also investigating the incident and commented that hazing is strictly prohibited by the organization.
Deng’s death is not the first of its kind and comes just a bit more than a year after the death of a college freshman at Northern Illinois University, David Bogenberger, that was also attributed to fraternity hazing.
Bogenberger was a 19-year-old pledge of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity who was allegedly taking part in a ritual whereby he was expected to go from room to room answering questions and consuming large amounts of vodka. His death was attributed to cardiac arrythmia to which alcohol intoxication may have been a contributing factor. Bogenberger’s blood alcohol level was .40, five times the legal limit, at the time of his death.
Bogenberger’s case ultimately led to allegations being levied against 43 individuals in a civil lawsuit and criminal charges being brought against 22. Of those 22, five face felony counts. Allegations against those involved include that there was a failure to seek emergency assistance after it became obvious that Bogenberger was at dangerous level of intoxication. Cases related to Bogenberger’s death are ongoing at this time.
In both Deng’s case and Bogenberger’s it is perhaps the apparent indifference to the individual’s well-being that is most concerning. As Police Chief Lewis stated in relation to the Deng case, the concern about the fraternity seemed to outweigh the concern about their soon-to-be brother, Deng, as evidenced by the alleged efforts to hide the true cause of Deng’s fatal hazing injury.
By Michele Wessel