If police had known Alexander Davis was unconscious because of an accidental drug overdose – and if his fraternity brothers had called sooner – he might have survived.
Instead, two other students in the Phi Sigma Xi fraternity house in Geneseo searched Davis while he was in distress or unconscious and cleared the room of possible drug evidence before calling 911 for help, police said.
Now Richard Rovner, 23, of Buffalo, and Michael Green, 20, of Brooklyn, are charged with felony tampering with physical evidence and fifth-degree conspiracy, a misdemeanor. All three were students at SUNY Geneseo.
“They (Rovner and Green) waited to call, and that could have made a difference,” Geneseo Police Chief Eric Osganian said Tuesday. “All our officers have the Narcan inhaler with them, and our ambulance crew is pretty quick. The ambulance bay is literally 500 feet from the PHIG house.”
If the callers had reported a suspected drug overdose, he said, they would have been protected by the Good Samaritan law that keeps bystanders from being arrested.
“The village also is going to adopt its own ‘social host’ law,” Osganian said. “In fact, Mr. Rovner was at one of the meetings about it this spring. He said it wouldn’t matter, that people would be arrested anyway.
“That’s not true. If you are acting in good faith and you call, we just want to make sure the person gets medical attention,” Osganian said. “We never want to go through this again.”
Davis, 20, was found dead in the Phi Sigma Xi fraternity house May 4, 2014. Although his death was initially thought to be related to a medical event, the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office later reported that Davis’ death was due to a combination of cocaine and the painkiller fentanyl.
“We did interviews at the scene and we weren’t given the whole truth at the scene,” Osganian said. “It looked like a medical issue at the scene, not drug related.”
Osganian added, “It took us six months to get the autopsy back, and that changed the investigation. Then we had to crack Alex’s iPhone, which had a passcode lock that only he knew, so we could retrieve his messages and even the messages he deleted.”
There were other people besides Rovner and Green in the house when Davis, a sophomore lacrosse player from Victor, was found unconscious in an upstairs bedroom. Osganian said the investigation is continuing and others could be charged, including those who provided the drugs.
Davis was a member of the fraternity, known as PHIG, but lived on campus.
The chief said he consulted with Davis’ family before the two students were arrested, to alert them to the new direction in the case. They were supportive, he said, with the hope that more attention to their son’s death might prevent other tragedies.
Rovner and Green were issued appearance tickets and released, with arraignment scheduled for June 9 in Geneseo Village Court.