SJSU student dies in frat brawl
4 OTHERS WOUNDED AS RIVALS BATTLE WITH KNIVES IN PARK
By John Woolfolk, Elise Banducci and Roxanne Stites
Two feuding fraternities at San Jose State University faced off for a gang-style rumble in a park early Wednesday that left one student stabbed to death on his 23rd birthday and four others seriously wounded.
The fight broke out just after midnight at North San Jose's Flickinger Park among about 70 members of the Pi Alpha Phi and Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternities, whose longstanding rivalry boiled over after a dispute Monday night at a pool hall.
Authorities identified the slain man as Alam Kim, a member of the Lambda fraternity and a computer-science major from Los Altos who died from a single knife wound to the chest that pierced his heart.
Police Sgt. Steve Dixon said police didn't know who was armed or how many weapons were involved, but he likened the brawl to a fight between gangs whose members sport Greek letters instead of tattoos and bandannas. The deadly fight marred the university's first day back to classes after winter break, as investigators cordoned off the Pi Alpha Phi house and spent the day interviewing more than 60 people.
``We understand there were some incidents of egging, verbal taunts and some bad blood between them,'' Dixon said.
Police named no suspects in Kim's death and said those responsible were probably on the run.
Three others were stabbed and another was knocked unconscious, but all are recovering, including a 25-year-old man in serious condition at San Jose Medical Center with a stab wound to the back.
Both fraternities opened San Jose chapters in the 1990s, promoting themselves as alternatives for Asian students. Police said the fraternity members got into an argument at a pool hall Monday night and decided to settle the dispute the next day at William Street Park, east of campus.
``We had no indicators this kind of thing was in the works,'' said San Jose State Police Chief Ric Abeyta.
Lucia Fagundes, 43, who lives in an apartment next door to the Pi Alpha Phi house, said she called police around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday over a noisy fight, which broke up almost as soon as she picked up the phone.
``There was all kinds of threatening. They were just calling each other bad names, screaming at each other -- `I'm going to kill you, I'll be back here,' '' Fagundes said.
Fraternity members from Pi Alpha Phi reportedly called brothers from their chapter at the University of California-Santa Cruz for reinforcements, police said. UC-Santa Cruz officials were investigating but said police had not confirmed that any of their students were involved.
The two groups drove to William Street Park but saw police in the area and headed 10 miles north to Flickinger Park.
Emergency calls poured in about 12:10 a.m. Wednesday from neighbors who said they heard screams from people at the park -- a common spot for football and soccer games but seldom any trouble, neighbors said.
Officers arrived to find about 20 people still at the park and many others fleeing. The five people most seriously injured had already been taken to hospitals by their friends. Kim died within an hour.
At San Jose State, members of other fraternities who were hosting pledge tables on campus said the Pis, known as ``Pineapples,'' and the Lambdas had been rivals for years, though none could say why.
``They never liked each other,'' said Jonathan Pingue, 20, an international business student and member of Zeta Chi Epsilon. ``This rivalry is not our thing. They just butt heads. We hear about it all over. There are some cool Pis and Lambdas, but everyone should just stop the hate.''
Loanne Nguyen, 21, a ``little sister'' at the Pi house, described the brothers as being into academics and Asian awareness, not violence.
``It's just a shock to me,'' Nguyen said. ``There's nothing wrong with them.''
University spokeswoman Nancy Stake said it was too early to talk about what would happen to the fraternities or their members.
``We have not been told yet what actually happened,'' Stake said. ``We need to have all the facts.''
San Jose State University President Robert L. Caret said he was ``greatly saddened by the tragic events.''
Angela Harper, coordinator of Greek life on campus, said she had not noticed any animosity between the fraternities.
``They are the two major Asian-interest fraternities on our campus, so I imagine there is some competition for members,'' Harper said. ``They operate in the same social circles, attend the same events and hang out with the same sororities.''
Stake said students from the Pi Alpha Phi fraternity had been detained Wednesday, either at the chapter house or the police station, and were not allowed to go to classes.
Grim-faced Lambdas, many dressed in black and some with bandages, gathered at the fraternity's unofficial 11th Street house, hugging and crying. They retreated inside when approached and refused to speak.
The manager of an apartment complex across the street said he never had trouble with the fraternity.
``I was very impressed with them,'' said Don Bakich. ``Every time they have a little soiree, it's mellow. You should have seen the idiots that were there before.''
A few blocks away on Eighth Street, the gray Craftsman-style house that is home to the Pi Alpha Phi fraternity was empty and taped off by police.
Officers turned back a member who returned to retrieve belongings. The fraternity feud, he said, was about ``guy stuff, macho stuff.''
``We've had problems in the past, but it's nothing that has gotten out of hand,'' said the 23-year-old graduate, who still lives at the house but asked to remain anonymous.
Several neighbors described the Pi house as rowdy and said police were summoned regularly over noise and drunken brawls.
Detectives were busy throughout the day questioning more than 60 people, who spilled over into the police department's cafeteria and conference room. As of Wednesday night, nobody had been arrested.
Some left in paper jumpsuits after police confiscated their bloody clothing as evidence. One stood on the sidewalk waiting for a ride. He said he remembered being punched in the eye, but could recall little else. It was ``all a daze,'' he said.
Shock over death
Meanwhile, friends and students responded with shock to the news of Kim's death.
His friendly and assertive nature made him the perfect fit for his job as a party promoter, friends said. The Korean-American student was rarely seen on campus without fliers or pumping up a coming event. He even planned parties for Pi Alpha Phi, according to friends.
Roger Lwin, who ran Underworld Productions with Kim, described him as honest and a hard worker. He often helped his father at the small car-stereo and cell-phone store he owned in San Jose.
``He worked for his dad for eight years and never had a weekend off,'' Lwin said.
Kim was described by friends as someone who got along with a wide range of people, whose hearty laugh was contagious, and who was quick to smile and ask how things were going.
Getting stabbed in a brawl with a rival fraternity just didn't seem to fit with his nature, they said.
``I didn't think Alam would be involved in that,'' said another friend who asked not to be identified. ``There are always rivalries, but he wasn't like that.''