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Editorial: Raising hard questions to learn who organized the Limestone College party that killed lacrosse rookie Zachary Dunlevy

1) Excerpt: Odom says Limestone lacrosse players and other athletes were among the several dozen people at the off-campus party. He says men were required to bring a bottle of liquor to attend.

2) Lacrosse brawl precedes a don’t-stop-’til-you-drop mandatory byo bottle party


Editorial: Limestone Lacrosse Death at Party Has Hazy Questions to Raise

by Hazing Blog Moderator Hank Nuwer

This end-of-the-year column was supposed to be joyous.
It was supposed to say that 2006 was one terrific year and deserved celebration. After all, right through December not one collegian or high school player was reported to have died in a hazing incident.
Yes, there had been a death in the Philippines and in faraway Ukraine, but not in the U.S.
It looked as if the awareness programs of the Association of Fraternity Advisers and various athletic associations had made an educational impact.
Either that, or 2006 had been a darn lucky year.
But now I’m not sure I can celebrate.
A young lacrosse rookie died following an alcohol-sodden party at Limestone College—yes, the selfsame school whose baseball players had to show their bare buttocks as they drank and were otherwise debased earlier this year.
Yes, that same Limestone College whose last lacrosse coach was dumped after a different athletic scandal. And whose team captain embarrassed himself in another incident, according to Associated Press reports. And who had several players bounced out of their residence for boorish behavior.
Yes, THAT Limestone College lacrosse team. The one that Zach Dunlevy—with 15 goals and 6 assists his senior year at West Lafayette [Ind.[ High School—was expected to play for once he recovered from a foot injury.
So what do we know about that party from press reports? We know that a minor, Zach Dunlevy, was required by somebody or many somebodies to bring his own bottle of booze with him–an order that is reprehensible and likely, upon conviction, enough to get the perpetrator(s) in civil or criminal hot water.

We know he drank the bottle he was ordered to bring, and that he likely drank lord knows-what-else that led him to sleep it off—forever–.
We don’t know if this was an initiation—formal or informal—where Dunlevy was pressured to drink. We don’t know if charges will follow as occurred following a police investigation into the death of Phanta “Jack” Phoummarath one year ago in a University of Texas fraternity initiation.

Why? Well for starters, Limestone College isn’t going to jeopardize athletic recruitment and its already hazing-tainted reputation to ask for an investigation into the death of Zach Dunlevy. The president of Limestone College, Walt Griffin, has said the death is a police matter, and that’s it.
That’s it? No school investigation? No judicial inquiry?
That’s it?
Bury the boy and bring on the Christmas vacation, President Griffin? That’s it?
Trouble is that the police investigation, judging from press reports and a thoughtless comment made by an investigating officer, doesn’t give me much confidence that the initial investigation was as intensive a sweep as it needed to be. Every partygoer that was there needed to be contacted right away. These kinds of deaths get cloaked in silence real fast. Especially with sports teams in which the loyalty of team members and their friends takes precedence over their doing the right thing.
So, maybe this wasn’t hazing—there, we said the word—or are we so sure?
We do know this.

Four hundred Limestone athletes recently signed an honor code pledge not to haze. We don’t know: Did they take their pledge seriously?
Sgt. Odom has not charged anyone in connection with the death of this under-aged young athlete.
Nor has he announced if he has determined from extensive witness interviews if the party in any way had a requirement for new and/or prospective Limestone lacrosse players to drink.
We do know he had the worst quote of the week: “He started getting belligerent,” Sgt. Odom said of Dunlevy. “That’s why they decided he needed to go home.”
Well, thanks and do blame the victim a little more.
Even Sgt. Barney Fife might have expected a young man with enough alcohol in him to kill him to act out.
Our view? Get Sgt. Odom off the case and bring in state police now. He and the Gaffney police force have had their chance and apparently have failed to interview everyone at the party.
He’s failed to get every answer he can by following standard procedure to ask, What can we know and how can we find out some answers?
Once more, the lessons associated with an alcohol death on campus linked to a fraternity or athletic team are clear. If the questions get answered, you get an indictment: like this new one in Texas. Police should IMMEDIATELY:
1) Find out if new athletes or pledges were pressured to drink.

2) Get hold of ALL partygoer cell phone cameras and other cameras fast as part of evidence gathering.

3) Don’t give partygoers time to regroup and get a story straight.

4) Don’t–if you’re a peace officer–fall for the old “blame the victim” BS.

5) Don’t expect coaches, the athletic director, or college president to volunteer ANYTHING! You have to ask, Sgt. Odom. And NOT nicely.

We have the botched prosecutor’s investigation in the Chuck Stenzel death at Alfred, the botched Indiana University campus police investigation in the death of Joe Bisanz, the botched rookie soccer party at the University of North Carolina that left rookie Greg Danielson near death, and the botched South Carolina investigation into the death of Barry Ballou to use as points of reference.

Police must learn from the blown cases of the past or the deaths will continue to pile up and to be called “isolated incidents” or the fault entirely of the victim.

Our conclusion? More questions need to be asked–and fast–before this case gets any colder than it already is. Zack Dunlevy paid the ultimate price. Was anyone at that party to blame? And just what did Limestone College do about its baseball players caught hazing a couple months back?

An investigation may clear those in charge of the party. An investigation may show that Dunlevy wasn’t encouraged to drink because of his lacrosse rookie status. But in no way were ENOUGH tough questions asked the morning of Dunlevy’s death.

In short, we–the public–do not know squat about what happened the night the lights went out in Gaffney, SC.


And, Sgt. Sgt. Billy Odom, apparently neither do you. It’s time Sgt. Odom got educated about athletic parties and initiations to ask the tough questions that need to be asked.

And by now, South Carolina state legislators ought to be asking those hard questions as well.

Why is it that too many of these cases start getting attention ONLY after the parents of death youths such as Western Illinois lacrosse player Nick Haben start asking questions and demanding answers?

Why, indeed?

That’s why I’m not saying 2006 was the first year since 1970 that we have not had a collegiate hazing death.

Journalists have to dig deep to speak for the voiceless.

If only “belligerent” Zach Dunlevy could speak, what would he tell us?

I wish I knew.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

One reply on “Editorial: Raising hard questions to learn who organized the Limestone College party that killed lacrosse rookie Zachary Dunlevy”

Growing up, Zach was one of my best friends, I pray that those near to Zach and those afar off will learn from his terrible death. These are perilous times in which we live.

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