TUNKHANNOCK TWP., Pa. - "People come up here and they think they can do whatever they want," lamented Jose Baez.
The Monroe County man was not shocked to learn a New York City college freshman died from his injuries after a fraternity party in his Tunkhannock Township neighborhood. He saw first responders Sunday.
"They were there until past 9:30 p.m., detectives were milling around," explained Baez.
Officers were there investigating how a 19-year-old fraternity pledge ended up in the hospital.
About 30 members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity rented a home on Candlewood Drive for the weekend. They drove down from Baruch College in Manhattan.
Early Sunday morning, Monroe County officials say freshman Chun Deng, who goes by Michael, was fatally injured while "partaking in a ritual" in the yard of the house.
Deng was one of four pledges staying for the weekend. What that ritual was is unclear, but investigators tell us after it happened, brothers in the Pi Delta Psi fraternity brought Deng inside, and "after some time" drove him to the ER.
According to doctors, the pledge was unresponsive and in critical condition. We're told Deng suffered "major brain trauma," and was placed on life support. He died Monday from his injuries.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Baruch College says Deng died after an "unsanctioned fraternity pledging event." "The school had no knowledge of the event or that the fraternity was rushing a pledge class. Pi Delta Psi did not request permission nor were they approved by Baruch on this matter."
The statement goes on to say "Baruch College has a zero tolerance policy regarding hazing," and fraternity and sorority members are required to attend annual training about the hazards of hazing.
Pi Delta Psi describes itself as an "Asian American cultural fraternity." The national website for the fraternity says it takes "hazing allegations very seriously."
The fraternity's national executive president, Andy Meng, issued a statement: "Our early understanding is that this incident occurred at an unsanctioned event that was strictly prohibited by our organization. As a result of this incident, we are immediately suspending all new member education nationwide until further notice.
"We are in the process of notifying all of our members and we will be conducting a full investigation into this incident. We will also be working closely with the appropriate entities involved. In the meantime, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Michael and request privacy during this period. Michael will be greatly missed."
Baruch is conducting its own internal review, as local authorities investigate.
The Luzerne County coroner tells us an autopsy and toxicology tests were performed, but he is tight lipped about the results. So far no arrests have been made.
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