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Georgetown Students Seek Out Lawyers After Death on Campus

By Caryle Murphy and Nancy Trejos

Two Georgetown University soccer players have hired a criminal attorney following the death of a fellow student who suffered a severe head injury last week during a campus fistfight apparently fueled by alcohol.

David A. Shick, 20, a junior business major, died Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Georgetown University Hospital, more than four days after the fracas early Friday in a campus parking lot. He had been in the neurosurgery intensive care unit and remained in critical condition throughout his stay, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Jacqueline Lee said Thursday that an autopsy is complete but that more toxicology tests and police investigation are needed before a cause of death can be declared.

Attorney David Schertler said he has been retained by two students who were “present” during the fight, but he declined to identify them.

“There is the potential ... for a criminal charge here, but I think that depends on the nuances of what occurred,” said Schertler, who once headed the homicide unit in the U.S. attorney’s office. Police and prosecutors will have to decide, he said, “is there a crime here, or was this just a very tragic accident?”

Shick’s death is the second incident at the university in the past two months caused in part by alcohol. In December, a Georgetown student vandalized an outdoor display of a Jewish menorah, sparking outrage among many at the Catholic campus. The student, who apologized and withdrew from school, said he was drunk at the time.

“It’s not that this campus so much has a hate problem or a violence problem,” said Ian McClatchey, a resident assistant in one of the dorms. “It’s the alcohol problem that is so incredibly dominating on this campus. You can’t avoid it on the weekend.”

Last spring, a campus task force concluded in a special “Campus Culture” report that underage and “binge” drinking by students is a major problem. There is “ample evidence to suggest that alcohol abuse is becoming increasingly more serious among Georgetown students,” the report said.

Georgetown’s president, the Rev. Leo J. Donovan, said in a statement: “Our deepest condolences are with the family, friends and loved ones of David Shick. ... We are profoundly saddened by this immeasurable loss.”

University officials declined to provide details of the fight, saying they are cooperating with District of Columbia police in the investigation.

But according to some students, Shick and several friends were returning from Champions, a Georgetown bar, about 2:30 a.m. Friday when they crossed paths in a campus parking lot with another group of students, including members of the school soccer team. The two groups, which a university spokesman said totaled about 10 students, jostled each other, and a fight broke out.

Sgt. Michael Farish, of the D.C. police, said Shick fell after being punched or pushed, striking his head on either the pavement or the curb. He said police have questioned most of the students involved in the fight and have identified the person who pushed or punched Shick.

Police and students say at least some of the students had been drinking, including students who were under the legal drinking age.