LSU fraternity pledge may have been 'forced to drink in excess' before death

In this Sept. 14, 2017, photo, Louisiana State University Police investigate the death of Louisiana State University student Maxwell Gruver as a possible fraternity hazing incident, at an on campus fraternity house, Phi Delta Theta in Baton Rouge, LaPlayThe Associated Press
WATCH LSU pledge may have been 'forced to drink in excess' before death

A Louisiana State University fraternity pledge may have been forced to consume alcohol "in excess" as a part of a drinking game before he died last month, according to search warrants filed this week.

Police said 18-year-old Maxwell Gruver, and other Phi Delta Theta pledges, received a group text message on Sept. 13, telling them that “Bible Study” would take place at the chapter house later that night, LSU police said in affidavits filed in court Monday.

Investigators later learned from witnesses that the meeting was actually a ritual where pledges were asked questions about the fraternity and ordered to drink alcohol if they answered incorrectly, the affidavit said.

Gruver was "highly intoxicated" when fraternity members left him on a couch inside the frat house early on Sept. 14, according to one witness. A group of members found him in the same spot that morning with a faint pulse, police said, adding that it was unclear if he was breathing.

PHOTO: Phi Delta Theta fraternity at Louisiana State is seen in an undated Google Maps photo.Google
Phi Delta Theta fraternity at Louisiana State is seen in an undated Google Maps photo.

Gruver, a freshman from Roswell, Georgia, was pronounced dead later that day. His death is being investigated as a potential hazing incident.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office said Gruver's preliminary autopsy found no internal or external trauma but noted that he had excessive fluid in the lungs and brain and that he had "a highly elevated blood alcohol level plus the presence of THC."

A police search of the fraternity house yielded video recording equipment and "multiple bottles of hard liquor," according to the search warrant. Police seized the recording equipment because it “may have video footage of inside the house during the times of the events,” the warrant said.

LSU officials ordered a complete shutdown of all Greek activity -- although some restrictions have since been lifted -- in the wake of Gruver’s death.

The university also assembled an 11-person task force to address concerns about student safety.

"Many of our Greek organizations represent all that is good about our university. They volunteer, fundraise for charities and provide opportunities for students to make lifelong connections that extend far beyond their time at LSU," President F. King Alexander said in a statement Friday.

"However, a small minority of these groups engage in behavior that undermines all these benefits, and that will be identified and discontinued," he added.

The university said it would not provide further updates on the case pending the completion of the death investigation.

"The case is still an active investigation by LSU Police at this time,” an LSU spokesperson told ABC affiliate WBRZ on Tuesday. “In order to allow the investigation to proceed as effectively as possible, LSU will not be providing further updates until completion."