By Alex Robinson and TimesLedger Staff
Court documents revealed details of what allegedly happened the night a 19-year-old Baruch College freshman from Oakland Gardens died after a hazing incident in the Poconos in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The student, identified as Chun Hsien Deng, who used the first name Michael, was brought to a Wilkes-Barre hospital Sunday morning in critical condition and died Monday, the district attorney said in a statement.
Deng, one of four pledges to the Pi Delta Psi fraternity at the Manhattan college, was injured during a hazing ritual described as the “glass ceiling” in the back yard of a Tunkhannock house that a group of fraternity members rented for the weekend, the court documents said.
The objective of the ritual was for pledges, who were blindfolded and wearing a backpack full of 20 pounds of sand, to arrive at another location in the back yard while other members of the fraternity would physically prevent them, according to the affadavit seeking a search warrant.
A fraternity member interviewed by police said Deng was pushed, but he did not see by whom. Deng then fell unconscious and was unresponsive shortly after 5 a.m., according to the documents. Deng was brought inside the house while fraternity members Googled his symptoms and changed his clothes, the affadavit said.
Three members of the fraternity then drove Deng to Geisinger Hospital, where he arrived at 6:42 a.m., according to court documents.
Police said when they arrived at the hospital, doctors had already declared Deng brain dead. Doctors found that he had suffered what the DA called a “major brain trauma” and was put on life support.
A detective interviewed the three Pi Delta Psi members, who had to be interviewed more than once before they admitted details of the hazing ritual, said court documents.
Detectives and police officers went to the house where the incident had occurred and found about 20 members of the fraternity. The DA said the authorities were told that more than 30 members of the fraternity had traveled to the Poconos from New York for the weekend.
Police said they retrieved Deng’s belongings, cell phones, lap tops and Pi Delta Psi clothing from the house. Police said they also found drugs in the house, but a toxicology report showed no traces of alcohol or drugs in Deng’s body, according to court documents.
“He was a good boy,” said Deng’s aunt, who added the family was not giving interviews when she answered the door in Oakland Gardens Thursday evening.
The fraternity describes itself as “an Asian American Cultural Fraternity” whose mission is to spread Asian-American culture, the AP reported.
In a statement, Baruch said “the preliminary reports indicate that Michael died over the weekend while participating in an unsanctioned fraternity pledging event.” The college said it was not aware of the event or that the fraternity was rushing pledges.
“Pi Delta Pse did not request permission nor were they approved by Baruch on this matter,” Baruch said.
The fraternity claimed the event was unsanctioned and was strictly prohibited by the organization.
“As a result of this incident, we are immediately suspending all new member education nationwide until further notice,” said Andy Meng, the fraternity’s president in a statement.
The Pocono Regional Police and the DA’s office are still investing the death, but the DA told the Associated Press criminal charges would be coming.
“Police are still going through the connect-the-dot phases of this investigation,” the district attorney said to the Associated Press, but “there will be criminal charges filed.”