Timeline Emerges in NJ Fraternity Pledge’s Death at Penn State
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Less than an hour and a half after being handed his initial drink at a Penn State fraternity house party, 19-year-old Timothy Piazza of Lebanon fell down a basement staircase headfirst, but the ensuing timeline spelled out in a grand jury report revealed he made attempts to stand as late as eight and a half hours after that fall, to try and get help when none of his fraternity brothers sought medical attention for him.
Those details are just coming to light in last week's grand jury release that charged 18 members of Penn State's Beta Theta Pi chapter, as well as the fraternity itself, with more than 1,000 criminal offenses, headlined by involuntary manslaughter.
Piazza, a 2015 graduate of Hunterdon Central Regional High School, died Feb. 4, a day after fraternity brothers finally called 911, which they did not do until nearly 12 hours after the teen pledge's fall.
According to the grand jury report, investigators obtained a warrant for a complex system of surveillance cameras set up at the Beta Theta Pi house, and the footage contained therein. The events of Feb. 2-3 played out approximately 37 minutes later, in real time, than the timestamps on those videos.
Key points in the timeline (all real-time):
Thursday, Feb. 2, 9:43 p.m.: Timothy Piazza is observed on the footage for the first time, in a line with other pledges.
9:57 p.m.: Piazza is handed and drinks from a bottle of vodka, then is handed a can of beer to "shotgun."
11:17 p.m.: For the first time, Piazza is seen staggering and hunched over, assisted by a fraternity brother. It is at this point that a forensic pathologist who testified in front of the grand jury estimated that Piazza's blood alcohol content could have been as high as .36 percent, which the doctor termed a "life-threatening" amount.
11:22 p.m.: Piazza is seen staggering toward the basement steps. Cameras in the basement were later found not to have been recording that night; the fall is not seen.
11:24 p.m.: Piazza is carried upstairs by four fraternity brothers. On surveillance, he appears unconscious and limp, with a bruise already on the left side of his abdomen. He is placed on a couch. In the ensuing 25 minutes, various brothers try to move Piazza's arms or pour liquid on his face, unsuccessfully attempting to rouse him. They attach a backpack to his back, a practice designed to prevent Piazza from rolling over and choking on his own vomit.
11:51 p.m.: Brother Kordel Davis pleads with other fraternity members to call 911 and get medical help for Piazza.
11:53 p.m.: Greg Rizzo, one of the four who carried Piazza up the stairs, sends a group message to other brothers, writing, "Also Tim Piazza might be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair-first, going to need help."
Friday, Feb. 3, 12:14 a.m.: One brother tackles another into the couch, landing on top of a prone and unconscious Piazza. Over the next hour and a half, various fraternity members observe Piazza vomiting and twitching on the couch.
2:25 a.m.: Piazza falls off the couch, is picked up, and slammed back onto it by three fraternity members. Two minutes later, one of those brothers, Joseph Ems, is seen striking Piazza hard in the abdomen with an open palm.
3:59 a.m.: Having rolled onto the hardwood floor some time earlier, Piazza attempts to stand. The backpack comes off, and Piazza falls backwards, hitting his head on the floor. He makes another try at 4:31.
5:36 a.m.: Piazza stands and staggers toward the lobby area of the house, but falls headfirst into an iron railing leading to the house's second story, landing on a stone floor. At this point, his blood alcohol content is still estimated between .19 and .24 percent.
6:03 a.m.: Brother Frederick Steimling begins to lead Piazza to the house's Great Hall, but Piazza falls down three steps getting there. Steimling leaves him on the floor.
7:34 a.m.: Fellow pledge Qobi Quainoo takes video of Piazza, who has made it back to the floor of the Great Hall by this point, via the Snapchat app.
7:55 a.m.: For the last time on video, Piazza stands, and staggers toward the basement steps.
10:06 a.m.: Piazza is carried upstairs once more after being discovered, unconscious, behind a bar in the basement. Over the next 42 minutes, fraternity brothers prop him up, wipe his face, and attempt to dress him.
10:48 a.m.: After inputting several searches relative to head injuries into his phone's internet browser, brother Ryan McCann calls 911. In the following couple of days, brothers and pledges alike will delete many searches and message threads from their phones in what the grand jury described as a cover-up.
Saturday, Feb. 4, 1:23 a.m.: Following emergency surgery at Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., Timothy Piazza is pronounced dead, age 19.