San Diego

San Diego Teen Faces Charges in Hazing Death of Penn State Fraternity Pledge

The victim suffered a traumatic brain injury after being forced to drink heavily.

A San Diego teenager is one of 18 Penn State students facing charges in connection with the hazing death of a fraternity pledge.

Luke Visser of Encinitas is one of eight people charged with involuntary manslaughter in Timothy Piazza’s death. Piazza, 19, died in February after suffering traumatic brain injury. He also had a blood-alcohol content of nearly 0.40 percent, doctors said.

Authorities say the victim repeatedly fell down a flight of stairs after he and other pledges were made to participate in a gantlet of drinking stations that included guzzling vodka, beer and wine.

Beta Theta Pi members failed to request help for Piazza, causing him to suffer for hours and possibly making his injuries worse, a prosecutor said Friday in announcing the results of a grand jury investigation.

Prosecutors say Visser admitted to running the beer pong tournament on the night of a hazing event known as "The Guantlet."

Surveillance video from the Beta Theta Pi fraternity shows Visser may have been one of the last people to see Piazza before he fell down 15 basement stairs, according to prosecutors. He was one of four fraternity brothers who carried Piazza’s body from the floor to the couch.

Visser is charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, consumption of alcohol by a minor, 12 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, 14 counts of hazing and 14 counts of recklessly endangering another person, according to the Centre County District Attorney.

Visser is a graduate of La Costa Canyon high school in Carlsbad. He was also listed as a member of the school's varsity football team in 2014 and 2015, according to

"This is a very sad day for Centre County — it's been sad ever since we lost a child for reasons that are totally preventable," District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said.

An attorney for the chapter didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The grand jury, aided by security camera footage, said the fraternity was heavily stocked with booze for the event.

Piazza, a sophomore engineering student from Lebanon, and 13 others accepted pledge bids at the ceremony on Feb. 2. The pledges were pressured to drink heavily.

The victim fell several times, injuring his head, Miller said. The next morning, he fell down the stairs again.

Piazza was unconscious when help was finally summoned. He died two days later as a result of a traumatic brain injury.

Miller said doctors estimate Piazza had a blood-alcohol content of nearly 0.40 percent. In comparison, the legal limit for drivers is 0.08 percent.

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