Baruch Student Killed in Hazing Incident 'Singled Out,' Authorities Say

Five members of Pi Delta Psi face third degree murder charges.

September 15, 2015, 6:18 PM

— -- Authorities said today that Chun "Michael" Deng, the Baruch College student who died during a 2013 hazing incident, had been "singled out" by members of the school's Pi Delta Psi chapter, some of whom now face charges in his death.

"The overall investigation shows that, yes, he was singled out and he was treated harsher than the other pledges," said Chief Chris Wagner, of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police, during a news conference today in Pennsylvania. He would not explain further.

On Monday, authorities announced that 37 people were expected to be charged in connection with Deng's death, including members or alumni of Pi Delta Psi and as well as the fraternity itself. Prosecutors said today that five members would face charges of third degree murder.

Authorities say members of the Pi Delta Psi Fraternity at Baruch, part of the City University of New York, pushed and tackled Deng, 19, during a December 2013 hazing ritual while on a retreat in the Poconos, where he and other pledges were blindfolded and then forced to run across a frozen field while wearing a backpack filled with 30 pounds of sand.

At one point he fell over and hit his head, police said.

After Deng lost consciousness, other fraternity members brought him into the house, but they never called 911 for help, police said. Instead they put him near the fire, changed his clothes and searched the Internet for information about his symptoms, police added. After two hours, Deng was taken to a local hospital by three of the fraternity members. He later died. Authorities said fraternity members then allegedly tried to cover up the crime.

The first five college students charged are set to be arraigned Thursday, Pocono Mountain Regional Police said today. They will not be facing murder charges.

Jim Swetz, a lawyer for Charles Lai, one of the students facing third-degree murder charges, told the Associated Press today that while the case was a "tragedy," "not all tragedies involve criminal conduct."

New York Congresswoman Grace Meng -- whose brother Andy Meng, the former national president of Pi Delta Psi fraternity, faces lesser charges including hazing and hindering apprehension -- said in a statement: "This young man's death was a terrible tragedy and our deepest condolences and prayers continue to go out to his family and friends. I love my brother very much and as his sister I'll be here for him as he goes through the legal process."

In a statement released by their lawyer Douglas Fierberg, the Deng family said they were taking further action against those involved in Deng's death.

"Fraternities and their members must be held accountable. … Michael was a wonderful, beloved young man and in his honor, the family also continue pursuing its wrongful death case against the fraternity to cause it and other fraternities to change so that other parents will be spared the loss of a precious child," Deng's parents said.

The Baruch College chapter of Pi Delta Psi was disbanded after Deng's death.

In a statement, Baruch College said: "In the wake of Chun Hsien 'Michael' Deng's tragic death at an unsanctioned fraternity event in the Pocono Mountains in December 2013, Baruch College has taken strong action to ensure the safety and well-being of all students who participate in student organizations on campus. Baruch immediately instituted a permanent ban of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity. ... While we cannot comment on the disciplinary status of any individual student due to privacy requirements under Federal law, Baruch conducted its own internal judicial review of students involved in this incident and brought disciplinary proceedings against all of them, except for those who voluntarily withdrew from Baruch College. We owe it to Michael and his family to hold accountable those who were responsible for the senseless death of this promising young man."

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this story.

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