Surveillance footage from a Cincinnati elementary school shows students kicking an unconscious 8-year-old just 2 days before he killed himself, according to police.
Carson Elementary School has refused to release the video that shows what took place Jan. 24 in one of its bathrooms, resulting in what exactly it contains to be in dispute, reported the Washington Post. The mother of 8-year-old Gabriel Taye only recently found out about the video, and now is looking for some answers. She believes there is a strong connection between the assault on her child and his suicide.
As the Post notes, a Cincinnati homicide detective has viewed the video and detailed that it shows a student in a red-and-gray coat punching another student wearing glasses in the stomach, sending the child to all fours on the ground. The boy then jumps in the face of another student in a “menacing manner,” the detective detailed in an email description of the video that was originally sent to the Cincinnati Inquirer, according to the report.
It was at that point that Gabriel—described as a dapper child who enjoyed wearing neckties to school—walks in and shakes hands with the boy in the red-and-gray coat. However, while shaking hands, the boy appears to drag Gabriel to the ground and to “celebrate and rejoice in his behavior” as Gabriel lay motionless on the ground.
Gabriel laid unconscious as students stepped over his body, pointed at, nudged and kicked him for about five minutes before an assistant principal came in and found him.
Two days later, Gabriel was dead took his own life. His mother found him in his bedroom, hanged by one of his neckties.
Gabriel’s mother was unaware of the encounter in the school bathroom for months. School officials did not even tell her that her son was attacked and rendered unconscious, they only said the boy had fainted, family lawyer Jennifer L. Branch told the Post. The family did not even know there was video of the incident until March.
The family decided to release information about the video this week, hoping that others might be able to come forward with information about what happened. Branch said that a legal team is currently working to determine whether to file a lawsuit and who would be named as the defendant in such an event.
And then, on Thursday, Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco announced on a local radio station that her office would be reopening the investigation into the 8-year-old’s death.
The Cincinnati school district initially refused to release the video to the public or give any comment, however, it is now saying it plans to release the video within the coming days, blurring out the faces of the minors to protect their identities.
The school district issued a statement saying that the description of the video given by the detective, lawyers and the Inquirer “mischaracterized” the video.
“While we are concerned about the length of time that Gabriel lay motionless and the lack of adult supervision at the scene when school administrators became aware of the situation, they immediately followed protocol by calling the school nurse to evaluate Gabriel,” the statement read.
District officials also say that a school nurse checked Gabriel’s vitals and found them normal. The nurse, it says, contacted Gabriel’s mother and asked her to pick him up to take him to the hospital. That is a claim the family has refuted.
“On the eve of Mother’s Day, it is unfortunate that CPS chose to blame Gabe’s mother for not taking him to the hospital after he was injured at school,” Branch said.
On the evening after the incident at school, after Gabriel’s mother was told he “fainted,” he became nauseous and started vomiting, Branch said. His mother took him to the hospital where she was told he had the stomach flu, she said. Gabriel stayed home from school the next day but went back on Jan. 26.
“He went to school and we have no idea what happened,” Branch said. That was the day that he came home from school, went to his room and hanged himself.
“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,” the school district said in its statement. “Their investigation has concluded and no charges were filed.”
Detective Eric Karaguleff who viewed the footage days after Gabriel’s death, sent an email to the school’s assistant principal, saying that he had seen “some concerning events in the video and I don’t even have a child at the school,” according to the report.
“I witnessed behavior that in my belief is bullying and could even rise to the level of criminal assault but due to the apparent age of the children involved my current opinion is it could be better dealt with appropriately at the school level,” he said in the email.
According to the Post, Gabriel’s mother, identified as Cornelia Reynolds, has declined to give interviews since the news of the video broke. But in the immediate aftermath of her son’s death, she spoke to local stations, saying that bullying may have had something to do with her son’s decision to kill himself.
The school system responded at that time by saying there had been no reports of bullying at the school between August and December 2016, the Post notes.
The Post reports that Reynolds told news station WLWT that her son spent quite a bit of time in the nurse’s office at school, and then there were other days when he just wanted to stay home. After his death, she saw those incidents as signs that he was being bullied.
“I guess he didn’t know how to tell me stuff was happening,” Reynolds said. “Him going to the nurse’s station or him not wanting to go to school, that was his way of trying to communicate with me. That was his way.”
“He probably didn’t want to say, ‘Ma, somebody’s bullying or picking on me,’ you know?” the mother added. “He just didn’t know how to tell me.”
Branch said that in light of what happened, parents at the school need to know about the incident and have earnest conversations about bullying in the school.
“For the parents at that school, they need to ask questions when things happen because they may not be getting the whole story from the school district,” Branch said. “Covering it up and pretending it’s not happening isn’t doing anyone any good.”
“How does an 8-year-old become so hopeless?” she added.