More than 100 people attended a memorial service Wednesday evening at Penn State Altoona for Marquise Braham, a student whose life was cut short by suicide.
It was a service that was meant to facilitate healing, but it was tainted when a contingent of fraternity brothers confronted two attorneys hired by the Braham family to take photographs.
There was only a brief, vague reference by Braham's father about the investigations into whether hazing rituals of the fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa influenced Marquise's suicide on March 14.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Richard Braham, father of Marquise Braham, pauses as he reads a letter from his son’s roommate during the memorial service for his son at the Slep Student Center on Wednesday evening.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Penn State Altoona students grieve during the memorial service for Marquise Braham at the Slep Student Center on Wednesday.
The overall message of the service was that Marquise had a big impact on the campus in the short time he was there.
"The last time I saw him was the Friday before spring break. He was still Marquise, with that smile," said one student who took the podium. "He made me a better person."
Tensions started during a fraternity funeral ritual for Marquise Braham after the service, after the family and other students had left.
Although the fraternity's grand president, Bill Neugebauer, announced that the ceremony was open to the public, fraternity members voiced disapproval of photographs the attorneys were taking.
Outside the Slep Student Center, the fraternity exchanged words with the men. They began taunting them by using their phones to photograph them.
"I just wanna show everybody how ugly these guys are," one said.
Others soon surrounded the men. They took out cellphones to snap photos of the men while showering them with insults and disapproval of their attempts to photograph their fraternity ceremony.
The men taking pictures did not identify themselves, but they stated that they were taking photographs because the university allowed it.
One eventually identified himself as an "investigator" to a Mirror photographer. The attorneys work for a Pittsburgh law firm, Felstein Grinberg Lang McKee.
One of the attorneys responded to the insults by offering one fraternity brother who began the confrontation an uncontested opportunity to punch him. No punches were thrown, though the verbal challenges and insults continued.
"I don't know what you are doing, but it's disgusting," one said. "Someone died. Look at yourself in a mirror."
Others spouted a few profane words at the men. Eventually, a few members corralled the group, and one apologized.
Campus police arrived shortly after the tension had dissipated.
No laws were broken, Sgt. Christopher Cohn said.
Aside from the confrontation after the service, the Penn State community rallied around memories of Braham. Five students gave speeches about him. They spoke of him as a genuinely caring and happy person who made people around him better.
Braham was a resident assistant at Penn State Altoona.
The memorial was organized by students involved with the Residence Life Program at the campus.
Featured speakers included Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry, who said: "Simply stated: Marquise cared about other people."
Braham's father, Rich Braham, wailed at one point during the service. Members of Marquise's fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa were teary.
Three members gave speeches.