Police have video of deadly Penn State frat party

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Police have in their possession video from the pledge night party where Pennsylvania State University student Tim Piazza fell down stairs and later died.

The Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, where the 19-year-old Piazza died, had an extensive surveillance system, enabling police in State College to secure potential video evidence from the party.

Piazza’s parents and Damon Sims, Penn State’s vice president for student affairs, said they were told of the contents of the video, which they haven’t seen.

“What we know is that this was a hazing ritual and it involved the gross misuse of alcohol,” Sims said Monday. “These men were made to ingest enormous amounts of alcohol.… To my knowledge, this is the first time that has happened in a chapter house where there was a sophisticated surveillance system.”

Sims said it was “quite unusual” for a fraternity house to have that level of surveillance. The equipment was part of an extensive renovation several years ago.

Exactly what footage was captured is not likely to be widely known until authorities bring forth their case. The investigation is expected to be completed by mid-April.

Piazza, a sophomore engineering major from Lebanon, N.J., was intoxicated and fell down a set of basement stairs at the Feb. 2 pledge night event, authorities have said. Members of the fraternity did not call for help until the next morning, about 12 hours later. Piazza, who suffered a collapsed lung, ruptured spleen, and nonrecoverable brain injury, died Feb. 4.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza said authorities told them that the video showed their son at one point getting off a couch where he had been placed after falling. He appeared to be trying to find a door, but then returned to the couch, the Piazzas said.

“It’s horrible to think your kid knew he was in trouble and couldn’t get out of the house,” Evelyn Piazza said.

The video was obtained by authorities in February during their investigation at the rambling fraternity house off of Penn State’s campus. Beta Theta Pi last month filed a legal motion in Centre County Court for the return of the video so that the fraternity can defend itself against the allegations. The motion cites two DVR boxes and “video footage” of the house at 220 N. Burrowes St.

The fraternity says in its legal papers that it provided the video without a warrant with the understanding that it would be returned after it was copied.

“In short, [the fraternity] has had no ability to respond to the narrative created by the [State College] police,” the fraternity contends.

The Piazzas and their attorney, Tom Kline, also want access to the video.

“By all indications, the video is critical to the ongoing criminal investigation,” Kline said, “as well as the investigation underway by the Piazza family, and is material evidence needed by the Piazzas, who are committed to fully hold accountable all of those who contributed to their son’s tragic death.

“We fully expect this evidence to be maintained and preserved by all who come into possession of it, and immediately turn it over to us.”

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