More than a year later, questions remain about UNC student's death
Posted January 21, 2014
Carrboro, N.C. — When David Shannon died, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill freshman’s death was seen as a tragic accident involving alcohol and bad judgment. But the WRAL Investigates team has learned that police won’t close the case until they can prove whether the 18-year-old was alone when he fell to his death.
Police and autopsy records show Shannon, who was pledging the Chi Phi fraternity, fell after climbing 41 feet and shimmying across a narrow water line at a concrete plant in Carrboro in late October 2012. His blood alcohol level was 0.22, three times the level at which a driver is considered impaired under North Carolina law.
Carrboro police initially said there was no evidence to suggest that fraternity hazing led to Shannon's death, but his friends and those with him that night have not spoken with police.
Hazing hasn't been ruled out, however. Chi Phi was fresh off a self-imposed probation shortly before Shannon died, and the fraternity is currently suspended for hazing activities, though UNC says that is unrelated to Shannon's death.
Police say they believe the people who found Shannon’s body had used a phone app called FriendFinder that tracked his phone location.
“We found out friend. He’s not breathing,” a friend told a 911 dispatcher as they tried CPR. “I promise you, no one has talked to him in a full day, and we just found him right now."
Police say there was a 24-hour gap in Shannon's whereabouts before the 911 call was made.
“Was David acting by himself or was he part of a bigger process, doing this against his will? These are all questions we can’t get answers to at this point,” said Capt. Chris Atack with the Carrboro Police Department. “When you think about it, why would somebody come out here by themselves and do something like this? It’s not logical.”
Landon Dowdy, a student-reporter for the campus TV show, Carolina Week, says Chi Phi fraternity members have been equally closed off to her.
“It was a social night. It was a Friday night. There was drinking at the party, and the party was broken up,” Dowdy said. “Somewhere in there, David disappeared.”
The night started at a sorority house on Rosemary Street. Shannon was supposed to attend a party at a restaurant up the street, but he never made it. Police say the last anyone admitted to seeing him was about 9 p.m. Friday. The autopsy report showed he sent his final text message at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, but police won’t reveal anything about the phone records.
The Chi Phi fraternity's national chapter isn't commenting on Shannon's death. However, the organization that owns the Chi Phi house in Chapel Hill did release a statement.
“The Southern Order Memorial Foundation is seeking to work with Chi Phi national and the University to ensure there is a fair and transparent process regarding current allegations. The tragic death of David Shannon, over a year ago, is a matter for the Carrboro police to investigate and fairly assess. It is not the role of the SOMF to speculate publicly on open investigations,” a foundation spokesman said in a statement.
Shannon’s parents declined to answer WRAL Investigates' questions about the investigation, but his father said, "All we've ever wanted is to know what happened that night." His parents have reached out to the university and have spoken with students about the dangers of drinking.
The WRAL Investigates team submitted requests two months ago for copies of the hazing complaints against Chi Phi, but UNC has not released the documents or explained why it is taking so long.
Carrboro police are hoping someone will step forward and explain the missing pieces.
“We are hoping that someone’s conscience is bothering them,” Atack said.