Police charged four men in a hazing catastrophe that led to the deaths of two Virginia State University freshmen who drowned in the Appomattox River while completing an initiation ritual.
The students were attempting to become members of “Men of Honor,” a group with no official relationship to the university, officials said.
A university spokesperson described the group as “an underground, shadow organization,” that purports to mentor male students, according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch.
The group sponsors parties near the VSU campus. Group members sought official university recognition last year but did not complete the application process after being deterred by university officials, according to one member.
Seven VSU students were taken by the strong current while attempting to cross the river early as the final rite of passage to gain admittance to the group. Two did not make it back to shore. Police divers have recovered one of the bodies, and are still searching for the other.
Four members of Men of Honor were charged with 5 counts of hazing, a misdemeanor. Three were taken into custody, and one is still at large.
VSU President Keith Miller called the incident a great tragedy for the campus.
“We continue to grieve for these two young Trojans,” he said in a statement.
Earlier this month, three students, including the student government president, were also charged with hazing pledges at the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
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