Eight college students in Virginia have been charged with hazing a fraternity pledge who died from alcohol poisoning after he was forced to drink a bottle of whiskey at a party earlier this year, authorities said Friday.
The men, aged 19 to 22, were arrested by police on Wednesday in connection with the February death of Adam Oakes.
Oakes, a 19-year-old freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, had received a bid to join the Delta Chi frat and attended a party where he would be paired with his “big brother” the night before his death.
He was forced to drink a large bottle of whiskey as part of his initiation rites, causing him to pass out on the frat house couch, where he was found dead the following morning, according to his parents.
The coroner’s office determined the cause of death to be alcohol poisoning.
The Richmond university suspended Delta Chi in March following the incident, as did the fraternity’s national chapter. The fraternity was officially expelled from the school in June.
The eight students were each charged with criminal hazing. Four of them were also charged with providing alcohol to a minor, officials said.
Seven were held without bond at the Richmond Justice Center, while the eighth was arrested in Prince William County and released on bond.
All of the eight students save one were enrolled in the university this semester, the school confirmed. The university said students could face disciplinary action as far as expulsion, but could not disclose sanctions for individual students.
Three others are expected to surrender in the next few days, police said.
Oakes’ family released a statement in response to the arrests seven months after their son’s death, welcoming the opportunity for justice.
“We are grateful for some measure of justice these charges and arrests may produce, as well as the protection from hazing they may give young, impressionable college students,” the statement read.. “The past seven months have been agonizing for our family. This is the first time these young men have been held accountable for their historically toxic and destructive traditions, manipulation of the VCU disciplinary systems, and for Adam’s death.”
Delta Chi’s national chapter, who suspended the VCU chapter earlier this year, strongly condemned hazing among its members.
“The alleged actions of these individuals are an affront to the values of Delta Chi. Our policies are clear as it relates to the expected conduct of members including that no member shall engage in or condone acts of hazing,” the fraternity said in a statement. “No family should ever have to experience what the Oakes family has experienced.”
VCU banned consumption of alcohol at fraternity and sorority events as well all halt all new recruitment. On the same day of the announcement, an investigation into the school’s Greek life revealed hazing and binge drinking that the university has struggled to address.
The school said Friday it will continue its efforts to keep student life safer.
“VCU continues to mourn the tragic death of Adam Oakes and is grateful to the Richmond Police Department for its investigation,” the university said in a statement.
“VCU is dedicated to continuing its efforts, announced this summer, to promote a safe and welcoming fraternity and sorority life culture for all.”
With Post wires
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