Prosecutors in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, where the alleged hazing took place, recently posted the full grand-jury presentment with details of the allegations involving the death of 19-year-old Chun Hsien Deng, who went by Michael.
Deng – a pledge member of Baruch’s Pi Delta Psi chapter, an Asian-American cultural fraternity – died after an initiation ceremony at a rented house in the Poconos, Pennsylvania.
During the initiation, Deng was forced to wear a blindfold and backpack that weighed 30 pounds, according to a forensic pathologist named Wayne Ross who was cited in the grand jury report. He was “repeatedly assaulted” while wearing the blindfold and backpack and suffered “significant blunt force trauma,” according to Ross.
What’s more, Ross said, Deng wasn’t brought to the hospital for at least an hour. The grand-jury report also suggested that the fraternity members tried to cover up the fraternity’s role in the incident.
Cellphones collected by the police during a search of the house “revealed text messages amongst members of the fraternity referring to getting stories straight, hiding the fraternity gear, and Deng’s ritual being too hard,” according to the grand-jury report.
“There was also content on a number of cellphones indicating various searches for ‘Concussion – Adults, Concussion can’t wake up, Unconscious, Snoring not waking up, Pupils don’t dilate,'” the report says.
Here’s what we learned from the grand-jury report:
The ‘glass ceiling’
Deng died after a fraternity ritual known as the glass ceiling, or the gauntlet, according to the grand-jury report, which cited police interviews with various frat members. That ritual requires pledge members to run through a line of fraternity members while being pushed and shoved, which turned into tackling as the ritual progressed, one fraternity member told the police.
- Screenshot Via YouTube
The glass-ceiling ritual, The New York Times reports, “symbolized their burden as Asian-Americans trying to break into the mainstream.” Pledges reportedly carried backpacks weighted down with sandbags that represented “the weight of the fraternity,” one member told police.
Pledge members were blindfolded and dressed in all black before the ritual, several members told police. Deng also had his arms crossed as he tried to navigate through the fraternity brothers who were tackling him, the grand jury report said.
Why Deng got it worst
According to the grand-jury report, one of the other pledges – who reportedly said he was a “longtime friend” of Deng’s – “admitted Deng had more of a problem he had an attitude at times” and “admitted the ritual was bad for [Deng] because of the way he acts.”
Another student who spoke with the police seemed to agree, saying Deng “was hit extremely hard, harder than any other pledges” and “got it worse because he was talking back and kicking.”
Various other fraternity members said one student took a 15-foot running start to “spear” Deng at the end of the ritual, hitting the pledge member particularly hard by lowering his head, according to the grand-jury report.
The student accused of hitting Deng the hardest at the end of the ritual told the police, “Deng didn’t say anything when he was supposed to during the ritual and was not cooperating the way that he should have and he got the ‘Bros’ mad.”
Hiding fraternity memorabilia
One student who brought Deng to the hospital told the police “he was in contact with another fraternity member at the residence, and told them to clean up all the fraternity memorabilia and hide it so the police didn’t see it,” according to the grand-jury report.
This student said the fraternity’s national president encouraged it to hide the identifying items, according to the grand-jury report.
In a later conversation with the police, the grand-jury report says, the student said “the protocol is to first put away fraternity letters, paddles, banners etc.” Similarly, when another student at the hospital was asked about hiding the fraternity letters, he said, “That’s our protocol, like, we don’t want to get our fraternity involved in to certain problems because it creates certain problems for the fraternity.”
As one of the students who remained at the house told the police, “Afterwards it was just trying to make it so the fraternity wouldn’t get in trouble.”
A lawyer for Pi Delta Psi national president Andy Meng sent Business Insider the following statement:
The Meng family remains saddened by the tragic death of Michael Deng and their thoughts at this time are of him and his family. Andy Meng was not present in Pennsylvania at the time of his death, had no role in his medical treatment and did not commit any wrongdoing regarding the investigation of his death or obstruct that investigation. Nor did he conspire with others to do so.
We reached out to others representatives for the fraternity and will update this post if we hear back.