NEW YORK - While a pledge was lying in a hospital bed with critical head injuries from blunt force trauma, members of the Baruch College chapter of Pi Delta Psi were told to clear their rented weekend retreat of any trace of fraternity memorabilia, authorities said Friday.
Before going to the hospital, Chun "Michael" Deng, 19, had been at a home in Tunkhannock Township, Pa., in the Poconos on a weekend retreat. He was participating in an initiation ritual on Sunday in the winter snow with other pledges from the New York City school.
Blindfolded and wearing a backpack containing 20 pounds of sand, his objective was to make it to a certain member without being tackled by other members, according to a police affidavit.
He was shoved, apparently fell and struck his head, and went unconscious, according to the affidavit. The fraternity brothers interviewed by police said they didn't know who shoved him.
The affidavit filed by a detective with the Pocono Mountain Regional Police said fraternity members did not call 911 and instead took him inside, where they changed his clothes and Googled his symptoms before three members took Deng to the closest hospital, where he died Monday.
The Luzerne County Coroner's office said Friday he died from head injuries due to blunt force trauma. The investigation into whether the death was a homicide or accidental is pending.
Monroe County District Attorney David Christine said criminal charges were forthcoming and he would wait until the probe was completed before deciding which charges to file and against whom.
The three fraternity brothers who took Deng to the hospital initially told investigators he had been injured when he fell and hit his head wrestling out in the snow, according to court papers. Later, they told authorities about the ritual, known as the "glass ceiling," and claimed it was dark outside and they didn't know who may have pushed Deng.
While they were at the hospital, one brother called back to the house to tell the members to dispose of "all fraternity memorabilia and items," the affidavit said. Police recovered vehicles, pledge paddles, frat sweatshirts, backpacks and clothing after executing a search warrant at the home.
The fraternity's national headquarters posted a statement on its website saying the incident occurred at an unsanctioned event prohibited by the organization.
"We are in the process of notifying all of our members and we will be conducting a full investigation into this incident," said Andy C. Meng, national executive president. "We will also be working closely with the appropriate entities involved."
Meng said the fraternity was suspending new member education nationwide until further notice.
Christina Latouf, a spokeswoman for Baruch College, said the fraternity had been suspended, and the college had not been notified of the initiation activities until they were contacted about Deng.