A former LSU student accused in last September's alcohol-related death of Max Gruver was rebuked by fellow fraternity members for shooting pledges with an airsoft gun less than a week before the fatal hazing, prosecutors say.
"Active members who were present observed the defendant's dangerous behavior, were upset and admonished him to stop shooting pledges," East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Morgan Johnson said in a recent filing meant to show Matthew Alexander Naquin had “reckless interactions” with pledges before Gruver’s death.
The prosecutor also revealed in the court documents that Naquin, 20, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, told a Phi Delta Theta pledge sometime between Aug. 20 and Sept. 13 of 2017 that, "Max is always late, I wish I could cut him because he is always late."
Among new revelations in the court filings was that Naquin allegedly shot incoming Phi Delta Theta members with an airsoft gun in the days before Gruver’s death on Sept. 14. Airsoft guns are low-power air guns used in airsoft sports and are designed to shoot non-metallic projectiles.
"Active members who were present observed the defendant's dangerous behavior, were upset and admonished him to stop shooting pledges," Johnson stated in the Aug. 30 filing.
Authorities have said Naquin targeted the 18-year-old Gruver the night he died.
Johnson alleged in a filing earlier this year that Naquin and other active Phi Delta Theta members ordered pledges to drink several bottles of hard alcohol on Sept. 6, 2017, causing one pledge to become ill, vomit and pass out. The prosecutor also stated in the filing that Naquin was told by fellow Phi Delta Theta members just days before the fatal incident to tone down his "extreme and dangerous" interaction with pledges.
A former LSU student charged with negligent homicide in the Sept. 14 alcohol-related hazing death of freshman fraternity pledge Max Gruver was…
Johnson is seeking a state District Judge Beau Higginbotham’s permission to use the other alleged incidents as evidence at Naquin's trial. A hearing on her request is scheduled for Thursday.
“The hearing should show that these alleged prior incidents are irrelevant to the issues at the trial,” Naquin’s attorney, John McLindon, said Wednesday.
But Johnson, in her filing last week, said the information will allow the jury to make a fully informed decision on Naquin’s innocence or guilt. He does not have a trial date.
The grand jury that indicted a former LSU student on negligent homicide and three others on hazing in the September alcohol-related death of f…
“The State alleges that the defendant’s interactions with incoming members of Phi Delta Theta in the weeks and days leading up to Maxwell Gruver’s death are … integral in establishing a pattern of the defendant deviating from the standard of care expected by active members,” Johnson wrote.
“The fact finder must be made aware of the defendant’s reckless interactions with incoming members … , causing his fellow fraternity members to warn and admonish him, just two days prior to Maxwell Gruver’s death,” she added.
Johnson stated that Phi Delta Theta student board members met on Sept. 11, 2017, and discussed Naquin's actions with pledges as well as possible punishments for Naquin due to his actions.
"The board decided to warn the defendant at the Chapter-wide meeting immediately following the board meeting on September 11, 2017, and, if he continued to act in an extreme and dangerous manner with incoming members, the board would take further action," the prosecutor wrote.
Johnson said the fraternity's pledge educator also individually addressed Naquin about his conduct with incoming members.
"Only two days after warnings by his peers, the defendant forced incoming members (to) drink grain alcohol at the September 13, 2017,`Bible Study' which ultimately led to Maxwell Gruver's death," she stated.
In the Bible Study initiation ritual, pledges were quizzed about the history of the fraternity and forced to drink alcohol if they gave wrong answers, authorities have said.
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Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia, had a blood alcohol level of 0.495 percent, or more than six times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana, at the time of his death, an autopsy revealed.
Three other former LSU students are charged with misdemeanor hazing in the case: Sean-Paul Gott, 22, of Lafayette; Patrick Andrew Forde, 21, of Westwood, Massachusetts; and Ryan Matthew Isto, 19, Butte, Montana.
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Gruver’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against LSU, Phi Delta Theta, Naquin, Gott, Forde, Isto and others. The federal suit seeks $25 million in damages.
Phi Delta Theta has been banned from LSU’s campus until at least 2033.
The family of Maxwell Gruver, an LSU student who died in a Phi Delta Theta hazing incident last year, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, saying…