Gabriel Taye can be seen lying on the bathroom floor for several minutes.
A school surveillance video shows other students nudging or poking Gabriel with their feet as the 8-year-old lay motionless. At one point, three students can be seen standing over Gabriel. One of them, a boy wearing a blue sweater, raises his leg until his knee was at waist level before walking away.
For about six minutes, no one helped Gabriel – until an assistant principal walked in.
Earlier Gabriel is seen shaking hands with another student. That’s when he suddenly fell to the ground. The video shows Gabriel’s motionless legs from the bathroom entrance as other students hovered and walked past and around him.
Gabriel would kill himself two days later.
The Jan. 24 incident was recorded in a grainy and choppy 24-minute surveillance video that school officials released Friday, a day after the county coroner told a local radio station that her office is reopening the investigation into Gabriel’s death.
In a statement posted with the video, Cincinnati Public Schools say Gabriel told school officials that he “fell.” He later told them he “fainted.”
“At no point did Gabriel indicate that he had been hit, yanked, pulled, pushed or assaulted in any way,” school officials said in their description of the video. “He had no visible abrasions and there had been no report of a fight of any kind.”
But a Cincinnati police detective who had viewed the video earlier painted a different picture.
As Gabriel was shaking the hands of the other student, the boy yanked him to the ground and appears to “celebrate and rejoice in his behavior,” according to the officer’s email description of the video reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer and obtained independently by The Washington Post. Students stepped over his body, pointing, mocking, nudging and kicking him, the detective said.
School officials said the detective’s description mischaracterized the incident. They uploaded the entire video Friday after initially declining to release it. The video blurs the faces of the minors to protect their identities.
“We asked that you review the video, in its entirety,” the school district said in its statement. “It is our firm position that the allegations portrayed in the media are not supported by the video.”
Gabriel’s mother, Cornelia Reynolds, however, says someone hurt her son.
“I feel he was cheated. I feel robbed. My only child, my best friend and my first true love isn’t here with us physically, but I know he’s here in spirit,” Reynolds said in a statement Friday. “I will fight everyday, every second of every minute. I am my son’s voice and it will be heard. As Gabe’s mother, it’s my obligation to make sure that this will never happen again. No, this will not go away.”
For months after his suicide, Gabriel’s mother had no knowledge of the trouble in the school bathroom. School officials did not notify her that her son was assaulted or unconscious – they simply told her he had fainted, the family’s lawyer, Jennifer L. Branch, told The Post.
It was not until March, while the family’s lawyers were investigating the circumstances leading up to the boy’s death, that they learned about the video.
The family decided to release information about the video this week, hoping that parents and others in the community might come forward with information about what happened. Branch said the legal team is determining if it will file a lawsuit, and if so, against whom.
School officials said they were concerned about the length of time that Gabriel lay on the floor and the district is reviewing procedures regarding adult supervisions in the restrooms. But they also said employees “immediately followed protocol by calling the nurse to evaluate Gabriel,” and they contacted his mother and advised her to take the boy to the hospital even though his vital signs were normal. Branch said the family denies that claim.
Branch said Gabriel was nauseated and vomiting on the evening of the Jan. 24 incident. His mother took him to the hospital, where she was told the boy had a stomach flu. Gabriel didn’t go to school the following day, but went back on Jan. 26. That day, he would come home from school, go to his room and hang himself with his own neckties.
School officials said they shared the video with police investigators at the time of incident.
“Their investigation has concluded and no charges were filed,” school officials said.
But Cincinnati Police Det. Eric Karaguleff, who viewed the footage just days after the boy’s death, sent an email to the school’s assistant principal, saying he saw “some concerning events in the video.”
“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.
Prosecutors are also now determining if criminal charges are warranted.
“We are all over it,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Gabriel’s death came amid a spike in youth suicide in Hamilton County, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Thirteen deaths were recorded for 2016 and seven so far this year.
“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.”
Gabriel didn’t show signs of medical or mental health issues, and was an “adorable” and “happy-go-lucky” child, Branch said.
Questions still remain on how a boy whom school officials described as “an outstanding young man” would decide to end his own life.
“Gabriel was a shining light to everyone who knew and loved him,” his mother said in the statement. “We miss him desperately and suffer everyday. His life was not only stolen from him, but from those of us who expected to watch him grow up and enjoy life. If I could, I would give anything to have him back.”
She added: “People need to know that truth and help fix this epidemic in our society by spreading awareness and speaking up. Parents, it’s OK to tell your children to reach for help when someone is hurting them, whether it’s at school, outside, home, or anywhere.”
(The Washington Post)