Local News

New Twist to Fraternity Drowning

Posted Updated
Switch to classic wral.com

RALEIGH — A woman who claims to be an eye-witness has come forward with a story that conflicts with what fraternity members sayoccurred at Raleigh's Lake Johnson Sunday night when one of their newmembers drowned.

The woman, fearing retribution, has asked not to be identified. Butshe told police she heard someone screaming "I can't swim! I can't swim!"She said that person was pulled to safety by companions.

Meanwhile, new Tau Kappa Epsilon member Steven Velazquez of Goldsboro may also have been struggling in the lake's cold waters. Family andfriends say he did not know how to swim. TKE brothers did not discoverhim missing until several cars returned to the fraternity house from thelake.

The brothers returned to the lake and, not finding Velazquez,called police. Twelve hours later his body was recovered in 10feet of water near the docks.

Fraternity brothers have told police they had a coat-and-tie initiationceremony elsewhere earlier in the evening. They have described the LakeJohnson visit as recreation, not something done in conjunction with theevening's initiation.

The woman, however, says the brothers made at least two trips to thelake and tossed at least four people into the cold water. One was thestudent who was pulled out after yelling.

Raleigh police have been conducting interviews, and expect to completetheir investigation today. After interviewing the witness they stillbelieve that a lack of criminal intent would preclude filing criminalcharges.

Because the fraternity chapter is affiliated with N.C. State University,Chancellor Larry Monteith expressed his condolences to the family anddiscussed the loss TKE has sustained.

Drew Smith, assistant director of student development, released anaccount of the evening's events that details the initiation and subsequentdinner. Smith acknowledged that recollections become cloudy once thebrothers piled into cars and drove to the lake, and that no one knowswhat happened to Velazquez. Two members, however, say they saw him on thelake's dock, dripping wet after having been in the water.

The eye-witness said she watched the goings-on from a car in thelake's parking lot off Avent Ferry Road. When she heard the fraternitybrothers' account on a TV news report, she felt it possible the chaptermembers were covering up what occurred. That led her to phone police.

Velazquez' funeral is set for Friday in Goldsboro. A memorial serviceis planned on the N.C.State campus next week.

Lake Johnson is relatively close to the campus. It is used fordrinking water and non-motorized boating. Swimming is not permitted.

ImageFeedback