Fraternity pledge died from head injuries in Poconos, coroner says

NEW YORK - December 13, 2013

Pocono Mountain Regional Police said in an affidavit that they recovered suspected marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms after executing a search warrant at the house where Chun "Michael" Deng, 19, had been before he died at the hospital, along with a photocopied document related to moral problems with torture.

They also recovered pledge paddles, frat sweatshirts, computers, backpacks and clothing at the home and in the vehicles driven by fraternity members. The cryptic document on torture was not explained further.

Deng died from head injuries due to blunt force trauma, the Luzerne County Coroner's office said Friday. The investigation into whether the death was a homicide or accidental is pending.

Deng had been at a home in Tunkhannock Township, Pa., in the Poconos about 100 miles west of New York City with the fraternity and was participating in an initiation ritual on Sunday in the winter snow with other pledges, authorities said.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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