Friends and family of a 19-year-old Cal State Northridge student who died on a hike last week gathered Wednesday evening at a vigil to mark his life and call for continued investigation into their claims that his death resulted from a hazing incident.
Armando Villa, who just finished his first year at CSUN, had gone on hike in the Angeles National Forest with some of his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers; he was found by a park ranger barefoot, dehydrated and with blistered feet. Doctors pronounced him dead a short time later at a hospital. Final autopsy results are pending.
Friends and family say he was being hazed and want those responsible to be held accountable.
"We're not going to sit quiet. We want justice," said Maria Castaneda, Villa's aunt.
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is still investigating the incident.
Lt. John Corina said last week that deputies were trying to determine if the incident was "part of an initiation or one of those rituals you do to get into a fraternity" and that "it kind of looks that way; we're trying to confirm that."
Cal State Northridge has suspended all Pi Kappa Phi fraternity activities while an administrative investigation of the incident is carried out.
The fraternity is also investigating alleged violations of the organization's hazing and risk management policy, according to a statement released last week.
“Hazing has no place in our fraternity," said Chief Executive Mark E. Timmes. “Should the student chapter or individual members be found in violation of Pi Kappa Phi’s standards of conduct through our discipline process, they will be held accountable by the national fraternity.”
Villa's family said Wednesday that the student himself had a goal of stopping hazing, and relatives said they want to honor his wishes.
"We want what he set out to do to happen. We want hazing to stop," said Villa's father, whose name is also Armando Villa.
Friends and family said Villa had not been allowed to bring his cellphone or shoes on the hike, and he and other pledge brothers on the trip were sent out on the trail with very little water.
At the protest, held at Zelzah Avenue and Nordhoff Street near the Cal State Northridge campus, people held signs reading, "No shoes, no water" and "Hazed: Forced, Bruised, Judged. They said it was tradition."
T-shirts saying "Stop Hazing #JusticeForArmando" were being sold for $10, the proceeds of which will go toward his funeral service. As cars passed the rally, many honked.
Villa's stepfather, Joseph Serrato, said he didn't know the extent of what Villa would go through when joining a fraternity.
"I knew it wasn't supposed to be easy, but I never thought it'd be dangerous," he said.
Villa's funeral will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at Forest Lawn in Glendale.