Criminal charges are coming in the death of a New York City college student who was forced to run a gauntlet during a fraternity ritual, a northeastern Pennsylvania prosecutor said Thursday.
Monroe County District Attorney David Christine said he won't decide on which charges to file, or against whom, until a police probe into the death of 19-year-old Chun "Michael" Deng is completed.
"Police are still going through the connect-the-dot phases of this investigation," Christine told The Associated Press, but "there will be criminal charges filed."
The Baruch College freshman died Monday, one day after friends brought him to the hospital unconscious and in critical condition with major brain trauma.
About 30 members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity had spent the weekend at a rented house in Tunkhannock Township, in the Pocono Mountains about 100 miles west of New York, according to a statement on the DA's website. Deng was one of four pledges.
At some point early Sunday, Deng ran a gauntlet blindfolded and with a heavy weight on his back, Christine said, in a ritual that fraternity members apparently called Glass Ceiling. He was knocked unconscious and carried inside the house, where he remained for some time before fraternity members drove him to an emergency room in Wilkes-Barre, about 30 miles away, the statement on the website said.
Police are trying to determine the lag time between the injury and Deng's arrival at the hospital, Christine said.
Baruch College has said it had no knowledge about the event.
Christine said it's not the first time that Pi Delta Psi has come to the Poconos.
"They've done this before, rented a place before in the Poconos," he said, calling it a "preplanned event where they rent a house, and plan a pledging ritual."
Baruch has suspended all of the fraternity's rights and privileges at the school, and school officials have been in touch with Deng's family in Queens as they make plans to claim his remains. Grief counselors were being made available to students.
Deng graduated this year from the Bronx High School of Science, one of the city's best public schools, where only top students are accepted. There, he excelled in both academics and sports. Deng was a champion bowler and played on the handball team. At Baruch, he majored in finance.
Fraternities are not a big part of Baruch social life. Deng's fraternity does not even have a house, sharing office space with other fraternities.
"The average Baruch student probably doesn't know there are even frats here," said Sebastian Morales, 21, a senior. "The ones who do, they try and emulate what you would expect at a state college."
He said he's seen fraternity pledges carry rocks in their backpacks for a month, or dress up like '90s "gangsters," in baggy pants and headbands.
Baruch is part of the CUNY system and enrolls nearly 14,000 undergraduates. Located in Manhattan, "it's a commuter school," said Mary Pauline Pokoradi, 18, a freshman. "You come to school, and you go."
Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania. Pearson reported from New York. Associated Press writer Verena Dobnik contributed to this report from New York.