On Friday, 18 Penn State University students were charged in the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, a fellow student who died during a fraternity pledge night on February 4.
Eight of those students were charged with involuntary manslaughter, while the remaining 10 were charged with lesser crimes, such as serving alcohol to minors and engaging in hazing practices. The Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi—the fraternity where the incident occurred, and which has since been banned from ever returning to the college—has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to the New York Times.
Police found Piazza injured and unconscious at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on February 3 and took him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead a few hours later.
A grand jury investigation released on Friday—the findings of which are based upon footage from surveillance cameras, phone records, and testimony—contains new details of the events leading up to Piazza’s death.
According to the report, Piazza, adhering to his responsibilities as a new pledge, got dangerously drunk and wound up falling down a flight of stairs, which did not escape the notice of his brothers-to-be: nearly 11 hours before a fraternity member called 911 the following morning, several brothers were already chatting about the incident over group text. “Tim Piazza might actually be a problem,” one of them wrote. “He fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair-first, going to need help.”
Fellow fraternity neophytes reportedly tried to help Piazza, but were encouraged by more established members not to, per ABC News:
“About a half an hour after the fall, at 11:14 p.m., a newly initiated member saw Piazza lying on the couch, looking ‘horrible,’ he later told the grand jury. He saw Piazza ‘thrashing and making weird movements on the couch’ and screamed at the fraternity brothers for help, stressing that Piazza needed to go to the hospital because he could have a concussion. One brother shoved the newly initiated member into a wall and said they had it under control.”
Several students were seen stepping over Piazza’s body throughout the night, according to ABC News.
Evidence also points to some of the students devising a coverup. A deleted text message between students that’s since been recovered reads, “If need be, just tell them what I told you guys, found him behind [a bar] the next morning at around 10 a.m., and he was freezing-cold, but we decided to call 911 instantly, because the kid’s health was paramount.”