An Ohio coroner has reopened an investigation into the death of an 8-year-old boy to examine security-camera video from the boy's school that shows him getting pulled head first into a restroom wall two days before he died by suicide.
On Friday, Cincinnati Public Schools released 23 minutes of the Jan. 24 video from Carson Elementary School that shows Gabriel Taye on the restroom floor, not moving, for six minutes as more than a dozen students walk by him. Some students kicked him, others poked him, until an assistant principal came to Gabriel’s aid. The tape was released after The Cincinnati Enquirer learned of its existence and requested it.
Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, the Hamilton County, Ohio, coroner, said “We will review all the new info including the video when it’s provided.” She said she doubts she would change the manner of Gabriel’s death but might add other contributing factors to the case file.
In a statement accompanying the video, Cincinnati Public Schools said it is “reviewing with faculty and staff the procedures regarding adult supervision in the restrooms.”
“In an effort to be completely transparent, we are releasing the video that was reviewed as part of an investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department,” the statement said. “We have uploaded the video, in its entirety, blurring out faces of the students who appear to protect their privacy. We ask that you review the video, in its entirety. It is our firm position that the allegations portrayed in the media are not supported by the video.”
Gabriel, the statement said, “was an outstanding young man, and this is a great loss for his family and our school community.”
Gabriel hanged himself at home Jan. 26, two days after the restroom incident. The school video shows Gabriel walking into the restroom and reaching out to shake another student's hand. That student then pulls Gabriel into a wall. Gabriel slumps to the tile and lays motionless.
A Cincinnati police homicide detective investigating Gabriel's death looked at the video nearly a week later and wrote a Feb. 3 report to Cincinnati Public Schools officials recounting the assault. The detective, Eric Karaguleff, called the incident bullying bordering on criminal assault. The police closed its investigation after Karaguleff's report.
The school district had refused to release the video but decided to do so to counter what it said was the detective's suggestion that the children who poked or nudged or kicked Gabriel were assaulting him.
Gabriel's mother agreed to identify her child publicly but did not wish to release her own name.
His mother said through her lawyer, Jennifer Branch, that no one at Carson told her about the assault when she collected Gabriel that day. In the evening, his mother took him to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center because he was vomiting. After a night in the emergency room, his mother brought him home and kept him out of school that day, Jan. 25. The next day, Gabriel went back to school, but at home that night, he hanged himself.
Sammarco’s office performed an autopsy on Gabriel on Jan. 27 and determined the manner of death to be suicide. One line on the report asks for “other significant conditions contributing to death.” The current report has that line blank. New information from a reopened coroner’s investigation could go into that section.
On Friday afternoon, a handful of parents and others demonstrated outside Carson Elementary School carrying signs with slogans that said, "Say no to bullying" and "Honk for Gabe."
Gabriel's death and the surrounding circumstances prompted leaders of the Ohio Senate to announce Friday that they have asked the chamber’s education and oversight committees to look into Gabriel’s death.
“No parent should ever have to question the transparency of school officials when it comes to the health and safety of their child,” said a statement from Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, Republican of Medina, Ohio, and Sen. Lou Terhar, Republican of Green Township, Ohio. “While we plan to answer some troubling questions about this case in particular by seeking input from school officials and law enforcement, we also want to take a closer look at what’s being done statewide to keep our students safe and our parents informed.”
Gabriel's death was the first youth suicide in 2017 in Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is the largest city. Seven county residents 18 and younger have died in suicides so far this year.
Last year, 13 occurred. The yearly average is about five.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Anne Saker on Twitter: @apsaker