CINCINNATI — 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 which police say shows the boy getting bullied two days before he died by suicide.
Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, the Hamilton County, Ohio, coroner, announced her decision Thursday on a radio program and later told The Cincinnati Enquirer, “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 Taye’s death but might add other contributing factors to the case file.
Gabriel died a suicide Jan. 26 at home. Two days before in a restroom at Carson Elementary School, another student grabbed Gabriel and pulled him to the ground, which apparently knocked Gabriel out. Other students poked and touched Gabriel for as long as nearly five minutes until a school official appeared to care for the boy, according to a Cincinnati Police Department detective's written account of what he saw on school surveillance video.
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, the mother brought him home and kept him out of school that day, Jan. 25. The next day, Gabriel went back to school.
Later that night, at home, he hanged himself.
The Cincinnati homicide detective looked at the video nearly a week after Gabriel’s death and wrote a Feb. 3 report recounting the assault. Cincinnati Public Schools initially refused to release the video but on Thursday agreed to make it public after the video is edited to blur the identities of the children.
Eric Karaguleff, a veteran Cincinnati homicide detective who watched the video, composed a timeline for 18 minutes of video. Eleven minutes in, a boy enters the restroom, wearing a red and gray coat “with dyed hair sorta O’Dell Beckham Jr. style,” in the manner of the professional football player.
Six seconds later, kids flee the restroom. The boy in the red and gray coat hits another boy in the stomach, “sending him to the floor in all fours.”
The assailant then threatens another boy.
Then Gabriel arrives “and appears to shake hands.” The boy in the red and gray coat yanks him to the ground and “appears to celebrate and rejoice in his behavior” as the victim lay motionless.
For nearly 5 minutes after that, “many students step over, point, mock, nudge, kick, etc.,” the 8-year-old boy, Karaguleff wrote. Finally, McKenzie rushes into the restroom and finds the boy.
Cincinnati Police spokesman Lt. Steve Saunders declined to comment further on the police investigation now that Sammarco has reopened her case.
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.
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.
Follow Anne Saker on Twitter: @apsaker