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New Details Emerge On Investigation Of SDSU Student’s Death

 January 22, 2020 at 9:29 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 The family of 19 year old San Diego state university student Dylan Hernandez is not satisfied with the investigation into his death. Hernandez died last November after falling out of his dorm room, bunk bed and fracturing his skull. He attended a fraternity party at Phi gamma Delta the night before and had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. The Hernandez family is now raising issues about alcohol use on campus hazing and inadequate police investigation and bunk beds on campus that lack adequate safety bars. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune reporter Gary Robbins. Gary, welcome. Hi. So the union Tribune obtained a copy of the investigative report released to the family. What does the report show about what the campus police did and didn't do in the investigation? Speaker 2: 00:49 It's a confusing report to be, to be Frank with you because it says that the police had access to a lot of information. Um, but it's unclear what, if anything they did with it. The family is raising questions that have to do with the fact that there were some videos on a cell phone that were supposedly taken during the party and it appears to be hazing. Um, there's a couple of separate, um, videos where one kid has passed out on his bed and another case, another kid has passed out on the floor. That kid is being taunted by someone else. There is an image of, um, one of the, uh, what we believe to be the fraternity brothers or what they report leads us to believe as the fraternity brothers were big welts on his back as if he had been repeatedly hit with someone's hand. Speaker 2: 01:33 There are signs of alcohol in one of the images. So the family was saying, well, here was a party, a big brother night at Phi gamma Delta. Uh, and there was a lot of underage kids there. So why was there alcohol there and what happened in the case of my brother was he drinking a lot? They want to know basic things. Like if he was, who put the alcohol in his hand and why did the fraternity do this? When it has a written policy stating that it will not do any of that, that it won't be abuse alcohol or that it won't physically or mentally haze students Speaker 1: 02:04 and has the university police said why they don't have these answers, why perhaps members of the fraternity were not interviewed Speaker 2: 02:12 well, so we don't know precisely what happened. If you read the report, you come away with the impression that they might have talked to some of the fraternity members, but that's different than a formal interview. We didn't see any thing to indicate there was a transcript of a formal interviews with one or more of the fraternity members. It indicated in some places that they really weren't sure who the fraternity members were by name and identity, which was curious to us because the university has a lot of information about his fraternity members. If you're going to join, you know, join one, you have to go through a prereq program, you have to sign up and do that. The question we walked away was every kid of that age today has a cell phone and they live on the cell phone and we're not seeing any evidence that the police made an aggressive rapid effort to get those cell phones. Not just from Dylan, from the people who would have been at the party. Now Marine, I'm not saying they didn't do it. What I'm saying is from reading the crime report that was given to the family that does not appear to have happened Speaker 1: 03:09 and and another aspect of the story concerns the bunk beds, safety rails. The family says the bed was not outfitted with the proper safety features. Can you explain that? Speaker 2: 03:19 So just think of a bunk bed and think of the top bunk bed and think of there being kind of like a small iron guardrail, but the guard rail doesn't cover the entire length of the bed. It covers, you know, the middle part of it and it's meant to prevent someone kind of from rolling out of bed. What the police report says in one particular instance was that kids can pile things up and a lot might've been piled up, it could be blankets, it could be pillows and whatnot, and so his body might have been near the top of the rail, whether he simply fell out or fell out as a result of alcohol. In other words, having been drunk and moving around in bed, we don't know. We don't know the actual circumstance. The family is raising questions saying this. These beds are uh, are unsafe in their design. Speaker 2: 04:02 The university is saying the opposite. They say that they meet the codes of the state fire Marshall and they do appear to do that. Um, there are federal regulations. Um, federal regulations may not have been in process here. In other words, a university might not have adopted them and they may not have been required to adopt them. Um, the university has said that, uh, it doesn't keep data on this because there's been so few incidents with it, but we don't know that to be true. We don't have independent data showing that to be the case. Speaker 1: 04:32 What is Phi gamma Delta status at SDSU now? Is it on suspension? Speaker 2: 04:36 So president aleatory suspended all 14 fraternities that are part of what's called a inter fraternity council. That's one of the, you know, that's really, it's the largest of the organizations. So 10 of these, um, uh, fraternities were under investigation or under suspension before Dylan Hernandez ever died. There was ongoing problems and those problems go back years. So the problem we're dealing here with Darren with fraternities is a longstanding problem. Um, now president Delatorre has a commissioned two commissions to look into various aspects. One has to do with alcohol, the use of alcohol, the use and abuse of alcohol amongst students. The use of other drugs is other things as well. And students safety. A lot of people on those two task force, they are mostly university people or people with close ties to the university. We're going to be looking to see whether they're overly stocked in that way because the fraternity system is very popular here at San Diego state and it goes back a long way. Um, we're wondering whether there's enough independence to say, Hey, wait a minute. You know, fraternities do play a good role in many ways, but are, are we being independent enough to figure out what happened here? Speaker 1: 05:47 Well my question to you is the report that was released to the family and and you saw is being described by university police as preliminary. Have you received any indication that they consider this an active investigation and we'll have a full report in the future? Speaker 2: 06:04 This is one of those, forgive me for saying it, but it's one of those wait to see circumstances. The family says the police talked to them and they said the police said this case is closed pending further leads. Now the police department also said to the union Tribune in a statement released by the university that they are awaiting the results of the toxicology test and any other medical tests that might give them a better idea. They also urge the public to come forth if they knew anything about it. So in that sense the case is open and can be open indefinitely. What we are interested in is the report given to the family seem to be the total initial conclusions of what they had done. The police, you know, led the family to believe that this was the majority of the investigation, or at least that's what the family is saying to us. Speaker 2: 06:50 And it was done pretty fast. It was done in about three weeks now. We asked the, um, police department and the campus all through the end of this past year in 2019. What is the status of the case? What is the status? And we were told that it wasn't done, but there's one sheet of paper in the report dated November 27th, 2019 that essentially wraps up most of the case and saying that they didn't have enough evidence to bring felony hazing charges or obstruction of Justin charge charges while after that to December and January, the, um, the university is telling us, um, that things were still ongoing. So I think it's semantical, Speaker 1: 07:25 as you said, it's very confusing. I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune reporter Gary Robbins. Gary, thank you. You're welcome.

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A report from the San Diego Union-Tribune found that the police did not interview key potential witnesses to the death of Dylan Hernandez.
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