CARRBORO, N.C. -- It’s been nearly a year since UNC Chapel Hill student David Shannon fell to his death, and police are hoping that people who may know why will finally come forward.
“A wall of silence went up pretty quickly after this incident,” Capt. Chris Atack of the Carrboro Police Department said. “Whoever knows some information has had a year to think about it. Maybe their conscience is bothering them.”
Shannon’s blood alcohol level was 0.22 – nearly three times the legal limit to drive – when he died early on Oct. 27, 2012, according to a toxicology report released Monday by the N.C. Medical Examiner’s Office. An autopsy, also released Monday, concluded that he died of “blunt trauma of the head, neck and torso resulting from a fall.”
Shannon, 18, was a graduate of Myers Park High School and had recently started his freshman year at UNC Chapel Hill. He was a pledge in the Chi Phi fraternity, sparking speculation that hazing could have been a factor in his death – and police have not ruled out that possibility.
In an update emailed to the Carrboro town manager Sept. 17, Police Chief Walter Horton said investigators contacted “members of the fraternity and UNC community” several times. What little information they got, Horton said, could not be corroborated.
“You also inquired what charges would be appropriate in this case if we got to that point,” Horton wrote. “Depending on what information is developed, we may be able to charge N.C. General Statute 14-35 Hazing which is a class 2 misdemeanor. Dependent on other developments, we may have additional charges if appropriate.”
Hazing is defined under the law as subjecting another student to “physical injury as part of an initiation, or as a prerequisite to membership, into any organized school group, including any society, athletic team, fraternity or sorority, or other similar group."
In a statement Monday, the university said it has cooperated with the investigation and is hopeful police get the information needed to resolve any questions about Shannon’s death. “The Carolina community continues to mourn his tragic loss.”
Refusal to talk
Though they waited almost a year for the Medical Examiner’s report, Atack called it a formality. “We felt very confident in the first few days determining the cause of death.”
Shannon had attended a party in Chapel Hill Friday night, Oct. 26, and was supposed to go afterward to a sorority dance, but he never showed up. Friends, following a GPS signal from his cell phone, found his body the next evening at the Ready Mixed Concrete Plant in nearby Carrboro. He had scaled a tower, police said, and fell 40 feet when he tried to cross a cable stay.
The unanswered question is: Why did David Shannon climb up?
“We are very confident that there are people at UNC or in Charlotte who can shed light on this situation,” Atack said.
Atack said he could only speculate as to why certain people won’t cooperate with the investigation.
“If there’s a hesitancy to talk to law enforcement about an issue, there may be elements of the truth people don’t want known,” Atack said. “I can’t say whether that’s the case in this case. But it’s unusual that people would not avail us of information that would assist us in this investigation.”