Coroner reopens child suicide case after report of bullying at school

Published: May. 11, 2017 at 5:20 PM EDT|Updated: May. 12, 2017 at 11:10 AM EDT
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WEST PRICE HILL, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County's coroner has reopened the death investigation into what she calls "one of the most emotionally draining cases" of her career.

An 8-year-old Carson Elementary student took his own life on Jan. 26. His family's attorney claims a bullying incident at school led up to the boy's suicide.

Attorney Jennifer Branch said security video from Jan. 24 shows another student attack the boy as he walked into the bathroom.

Reports of the alleged video surfaced Wednesday and prompted Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco to take a second look at the death investigation.

She made the announcement on 700 WLW radio Thursday afternoon.

[Attorney: 8-year-old committed suicide two days after assault at school]

The manner of death – suicide – will remain the same, but the coroner's office will look consider other factors that were unknown in the initial report.

"Whether there are any contributing factors or not is what we're going to try and determine with reopening the investigation," Sammarco said.

She also said she has asked Cincinnati police for a full investigation.

Reached for comment after Sammarco's remarks, Cincinnati police issued the following statement:

"On January 26th, 2017, The Cincinnati Police Department conducted an investigation into the death of (the boy). In light of the Hamilton County Coroner's Office statement that they have reopened this death investigation, the Cincinnati Police Department does not believe it would be appropriate to comment at this time.  Any questions regarding this matter should be directed to the Hamilton County Coroner's Office."

This is one of the youngest suicide victims ever reported in Hamilton County, the coroner said. The youngest was 7, she said.

"It was very hard for me to believe that an 8-year-old would even know what it means to commit suicide," Sammarco said.

Officials at Cincinnati Public Schools are pushing back against claims the boy was assaulted two days before committing suicide.

The video, which has not been released to the public, reportedly shows the attack.

"He ends up on the floor, unconscious for seven and a half minutes," said Branch.

A CPS spokesperson said the school is concerned about the length of time the child lay motionless and the lack of adult supervision at the scene.

However, school officials maintain administrators followed protocol once they became aware of the situation.

A school nurse determined the boy's vital signs were normal, the spokesperson said.

Administrators told the boy's mom that he fainted, Branch claims. She took him to the hospital later in the day.

He missed school on Jan. 25 and went back to Carson Elementary on Jan. 26.

"He came home from school that last day," Branch said. "Mom found him [dead] in his bedroom a few hours later."

A Cincinnati police detective who saw the video said other students stepped over, mocked and kicked the boy as he lay motionless on the ground.

The detective outlined the alleged on-camera events in an email obtained by our news partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer. 

The detective called the video "alarming" and "bullying," according to the Enquirer.

Referencing the Cincinnati Enquirer report, CPS also disputed claims about the alleged bathroom beating.

They said the newspaper and detective "mischaracterized" the events in the video.

"The article suggests that other students were beating Gabriel during this incident, a description that video evidence does not support.

The article also portrays other students in the video as "aggressors."

Video evidence does not support this characterization," read a statement released Thursday.

Police have finished investigating the incident and no charges were filed.

"Though the connection between this incident at school and Gabriel's suicide are not clear, the District shared this video with police investigators at the time of the incident," according to CPS.

The school's statement does not respond to claims made by the family's attorney.

Read the entire CPS statement.

If you or anyone you know are feeling desperate, or beyond hope here are some phone numbers that you can call 24 hours a day for free counseling:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Talbert House's hotline line: 513-281-CARE (2273).

Talbert House's text line: Text the phrase 4hope to 839863

The state of Ohio's text line: Text the phrase 4hope to 741741

Mental Health Association of Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio: 859-431-1077

Mental Health Access Point mobile crisis line: 513-558-8888.

Mindpeace, at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 513-803-0844.

Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren & Clinton Counties: 1-877-695-6333

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