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Frat members should be charged with hazing after Washington student’s death, cops say

Brooke Wolford
·2 min read

Fraternity members involved in the death of a freshman college student in 2019 should be charged with hazing and providing alcohol to minors, Washington police said.

Investigators with the Pullman Police Department requested some of the members of Washington State University’s Alpha Tau Omega chapter be charged in the death of Samuel Martinez, 19, of Bellevue, according to a supplemental report from the department.

Martinez died of “acute alcohol poisoning” in November 2019 after the fraternity hosted “big/little night” at an off-campus house rented by some of the members, the report said. His ethanol level was .372 percent, the report said.

Big/little night

The freshman members were assigned “big brothers,” and members celebrated the pairings at a party on Nov. 11, the report said. A big brother is an upperclassmen who acts as a mentor to new members, according to the report.

These events have occurred in the past and typically involve a lot of drinking, the report said.

Martinez’s big brother told officers he, Martinez and Martinez’s “twin brother” all shared a half gallon of rum that night, the report said. The “twin,” who is a fellow new member with the same big brother as Martinez, told officers the bottle was nearly gone within 30 minutes, according to the report.

The morning after the event, members found Martinez unconscious and attempted CPR but were unsuccessful, the report said. He was declared dead at the fraternity house.

Martinez’s big brother told officers he never forced the 19-year-old to drink and he “seemed to be okay,” the report said.

Charges recommended

Pullman police recommended Martinez’s big brother and one other member be charged with hazing, according to the report. Despite a one-year statute of limitations, the department chose to recommend hazing charges because the “offense is substantiated by the investigation and [the department] wanted that documented in [its] reports,” Gary Jenkins, Pullman police chief, told McClatchy News in an email.

Washington defines “hazing” as “any method of initiation into a student organization or living group … that causes, or is likely to cause, bodily danger or physical harm, or serious mental or emotional harm, to any student or other person attending a public or private institution of higher education.”

The department also recommended Martinez’s big brother and five other residents of the house where the party took place be charged for furnishing liquor to minors.

“Because of the large number of people/witnesses interviewed, and most of them are not full time Pullman residents, and some [of] them not completely cooperative, logistics in conducting in person interviews added to the length of time it took to investigate,” Jenkins said.

McClatchy News chose not to name the people the police recommended charges for because they have not been formally charged.