• Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza died February 4, 2017 after a fraternity event.
• 18 fraternity brothers have been charged in conjunction with his death; 8 brothers have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
• Security footage from the house on the night of Piazza’s death provides a detailed sequence of events.
At about 9 p.m. on February 2, 19-year-old Timothy Piazza showed up for a pledge event at Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He joined the other pledges — all dressed similarly in khakis, button-down shirts, and sports jackets — ready to take part in a hazing ritual called “the gauntlet.”
Fourteen hours later, he was rushed to the hospital, and died the next day.
Eighteen members of Beta Theta Pi, as well as the fraternity corporation, had charges brought against them on Friday for their alleged role in his death. Eight of the 18, along with the corporation, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. The other charges, totaling more than 1,000, include aggravated assault, tampering with evidence, hazing, and providing alcohol to minors.
The specific events leading up to Piazza’s death have come into clearer focus since the charges were filed. A surveillance camera in Beta Theta Pi’s house captured most of the events on February 2, and a
Grand Jury presentment has provided a minute-by-minute account of the “the gauntlet” and the final hours before Piazza’s death.
The Grand Jury presentment has a section called “Revelations from Beta Theta Pi’s Video Surveillance,” which begins with pledges arriving to the house for “the gauntlet,” which one member of the fraternity testified was an event where pledges drank at series of alcohol stations, and consumed four to five drinks in as little as two-minute spans.
9:06 p.m. — Piazza comes into view on the camera. Pledges begin going through the “gauntlet” and drinking at different stations.
9:21 p.m. — Piazza is handed a bottle of vodka to drink from, then shotguns a beer. Other gauntlet stations are not visible from the camera angles.
10:43 p.m. — A visibly intoxicated Piazza is seen “staggering with great difficulty walking.”
10:45 p.m. — Piazza staggers drunkenly toward basement steps.
10:45 p.m. — On camera, a fraternity brother is visible “pointing agitatedly” toward the basement steps.
The fall is not captured on camera, so a detective outlines for the jury. In an interview with police a fraternity brother said he saw Piazza laying “face-down at the bottom of the steps.” In a text message that night at 11:53 p.m. the brother wrote: “Also Tim Piazza might actually be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hard-first, going to need help.”
10:47 p.m. — Piazza is carried upstairs by four Beta brothers. He appears unconscious and on the left side of his abdomen there is a visible bruise.
10:49 p.m. — Two brothers dump liquid on his face.
11:14 p.m. — Kordel Davis, a newly initiated brother, is seen pointing animatedly at Piazza. He testified before the Grand Jury that he saw Piazza making weird moments on the couch, and screamed at the other brothers to get help.
11:15 p.m. — Another brother shoves Davis into a wall. In his testimony, Davis said he was told to leave and they had it under control.
11:25 p.m. — The fraternity Pledge Master slaps Piazza in his face three times.
1:00 a.m. — Brothers who remained in the room observed Piazza vomit and twitch on the couch. They “backpack” Piazza, putting text books in a backpack in an attempt to ensure he doesn’t roll onto his stomach and aspirate on vomit.
1:48 a.m. — Piazza rolls off couch and onto the floor. He’s placed back on the couch forcefully by Beta brothers.
1:50 a.m. — A brother — who appears to be frustrated — strikes Piazza hard in the abdomen.
2:38 a.m. — Piazza again rolls to the floor.
3:22 a.m. — Piazza attempts to regain his feet, but falls backwards and strikes head on the hardwood floor.
3:54 am — Piazza attempts to stand again, but falls face down on the hardwood.
4:59 a.m. — Piazza staggers toward lobby, falls head-first into an iron railing, and lands on a stone floor. Seconds later, he attempts go to the front door but falls head-first into the door.
5:15 a.m. — A Beta brother steps over him for water and then goes back upstairs.
6:57 a.m. — A fellow pledge videos Piazza on Snapchat.
7:18 a.m. — Piazza staggers toward basement steps. He is not seen again on camera until a number of brothers and a pledge carry him upstairs again.
A fraternity brother testified that he found Piazza in the basement at 10 a.m. breathing heavily, with blood on his face. He felt cold to the touch, with pale skin and eyes half-opened.
For the next 42 minutes surveillance depicts Piazza lying unconscious while brothers shook him, covered him with a blanket, wiped his face, and attempted to dress him.
At 10:48 a.m.fraternity brother calls 911. Piazza was transported to the hospital and died on February 4. He had a ruptured spleen, severe injuries to his head, and a blood alcohol content somewhere between .28 and .36.
Piazza’s death rocked has rocked Penn State’s Greek Life, and magnified the dangers of drinking culture and hazing on campus.
The university banned Beta Theta Pi from campus for at least five years, and potentially forever pending results from the investigation. Other Greek organisations are banned from recruiting new members until 2018, and other limits have been placed on the number of social events they can hold.
Penn State President Eric Barron released a statement calling the details alleged in the findings “heart-wrenching and incomprehensible” and that “The University community continues to mourn his tragic death.” A representative for Beta Theta Pi did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
The editorial board at The Daily Collegian, Penn State’s student paper, also voiced their concern and anger. “Incomprehensible that a 19-year-old with his whole life ahead of him could be alive one day, and gone the next. Sickening that young adults could be so careless and have such little respect for human life,” they wrote.
They don’t believe enough has been done to ensure a similar tragedy doesn’t occur in the futures.
“The governing body failed to tackle the underlying cause of Piazza’s death — hazing,” the editorial board continued.
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