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LSU police to charge ten people in death of fraternity pledge

October 11, 2017 - 11:03 am
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(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- Arrest warrants have been issued for 10 people in connection with the death of an 18-year-old freshman pledge at Louisiana State University's Phi Delta Theta fraternity, the university announced Wednesday morning.

Ten people are facing charges of hazing, the school said. One of those 10 individuals is also facing a charge of negligent homicide.

The LSU Police Department opened an investigation after Maxwell Gruver died on Sept. 14.

At the time of the incident, eight of the 10 people now charged were active members of Phi Delta Theta, LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard III said Wednesday. Eight are current students at LSU.

Pledges may have been forced to drink during what the fraternity called "Bible Study" the night before Gruver's death, according to search warrants reported by ABC affiliate WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge.

"The meeting was actually an exchange in which members asked pledges questions about the organization and were ordered to drink alcohol if they answered incorrectly," investigators said in an affidavit, WBRZ-TV reported.

The affidavit also said "several" other interviews indicated that "the pledges were forced to drink in excess," WBRZ-TV reported.

Gruver died from acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration, according to the coroner’s report. The manner of death was ruled an accident. Toxicology testing found that Gruver’s alcohol level was .495 at the time of this death, the coroner’s office said.

 "The LSU Police Department has communicated with the Gruver family throughout the investigation process, and the university has also been in touch with them regarding today’s arrests," Ballard said Wednesday in a statement.   

The university's president, F. King Alexander, said in a statement that the "arrests underscore that the ramifications of hazing can be devastating. Maxwell Gruver’s family will mourn his loss for the rest of their lives, and several other students are now facing serious consequences -- all due to a series of poor decisions."

Days after Gruver's death, Phi Delta Theta General Headquarters said it was immediately shuttering the LSU chapter "based on the preliminary findings of an investigation that uncovered enough information to conclude that some chapter members were in violation of established risk management policies, including our alcohol-free housing policy."

Phi Delta Theta said in the statement that it would conduct an "internal investigation to completely understand the situation in order to hold all of those who violated its risk management policies accountable for their actions."

The fraternity said it will also review its health and safety policies and educational programs, and "is committed to enacting any new initiatives to help prevent similar situations in the future."

Ballard said earlier that Greek life activities were suspended at LSU after Gruver's death, though "educational and outreach activities have been reinstated, along with some events that are registered and approved through the university."

In addition to the LSU police investigation, the Student Advocacy & Accountability office is reviewing possible code of conduct violations by student organizations or individuals, Ballard said.

LSU has also said it will form a Greek life task force to take "an exhaustive look at past and current practices of Greek life, as well as other LSU student organizations, to address concerns about student safety."

Alexander said in his statement, "We are all in this together. Affecting real change requires students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni engagement. I ask that anyone who might have information that would prove useful in our Greek Life Task Force’s efforts to inform a healthier culture for all LSU students reach out to [email protected]."

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