By Grant Bissell
Salem, IL (KSDK) - Angry parents in Salem, Illinois reached out to NewsChannel 5 via Facebook to say a high school freshman may have taken his own life because he was being bullied.
On Tuesday night, a candle light vigil was held for Lucas Bumgarner. He was found dead in his home Monday after school.
Classmates say Lucas was kind with a good sense of humor, but that he had experienced some tragedies at home.
Lucas' grandfather told us the young man was a football player and weighed nearly 300 pounds. Friends say Lucas was teased about his weight at school, but it's not clear whether that played a part in his suicide.
"He was walking down the hallway and was going to talk to a counselor about it as far as I know," said Andrew Barnett. "The kid started bullying him so he got into a fight and got suspended and went home and that's when it happened."
Classmate Emily Hunt said Lucas usually tried to ignore the comments.
"He didn't like to talk about it," said Hunt. "He would hide it. He came to school with a smile on his face every day. He always looked like he was having the time of his life."
Marion County Deputy Coroner Troy Cannon reports Lucas left a suicide note, but it did not mention bullying.
Cannon posted a statement on his personal Facebook page that reads in part, "I am not saying that bullying is not an issue, nor that Lucas was not bullied. I AM saying, however, that there is absolutely no evidence to support that any such bullying played a role in his decision to end his life. Bullying IS an issue in our modern existence, even though it has always existed. Bullying has led to suicides on many occasions, and certainly brings low esteem and self-image. Again, as clearly as I know how to say it, Lucas did not end his life due to issues related to bullying."
Cannon's full statement is posted below.
If you have concerns about bullying, visit the bullying section on KSDK.COM to find helpful information including anti-bullying tool kits for parents, students and educators.
Full statement from Marion County, Illinois Deputy Coroner Troy Cannon:
"There is a family among us experiencing unspeakable shock and grief right now. In addition, many others in our community, directly and/or indirectly impacted by the tragedy of a life lost too soon, are dealing with anguish and myriad other emotions as well.
"When we, as bystanders and observers, jump to conclusions and assumptions and make brash statements without know ing all the facts, unknowingly and inadvertantly incite the fears and emotions felt so deeply by those closer to the reality. In other words, unless you know what you're talking about, best not to talk at all. If anything, please only offer words of comfort and support for those left in the wake of tragedy when it occurs, without pointing fingers and placing blame, or assigning culpability where there is none.
"I know it's only human nature to seek answers to questions that so vehemently beg explanation, but we must also sometimes accept the fact that those answers will likely never come. Suicide is an evil element of our existence, but one we have never successfully defined or explained. From my perspective of having investigated well over a hundred such cases, I can tell you the dynamics of these incidents are never the same. There are no common denominators, except the commonality of the tragic end. If I, or anyone else, had the answers to the questions we seek regarding suicides, we'd never have to work another one. Ever. However, this is not the reality.
"In deepest regard and respect for the dignity and sanctity of this grieving family, I will only tell you that Lucas had clearly been contemplating suicide for several days. As reported in the media, he left a lengthy, thoughtful, and detailed note explaining what he felt was rationale for his decision. I will not tell you what he wrote in this note, but I will tell you what he did NOT write. There was no mention of having been bullied on a personal level nor in social media. There was no mention of having been in a fight at school early in the day, nor of being suspended from school as a result. All his issues, the ones driving his decision to end his young life, did not include any of the issues that so many have assumed to be the case.
"Now, let's consider for a moment the impact of such statements- As mentioned earlier, there are many others tangentially or indirectly involved in or impacted by yesterday's events. There are fellow students, teachers, administrators, family members, friends, etc., all who are now second-guessing their perceived actions or inactions, grievously considering what they should have done or not done in order to have prevented this tragedy. Many of them are feeling these emotions simply because of the words so recklessly thrown about yesterday. The reality is, their interactions with Lucas had no impact on his decision. That is clear from his own words.
"I am not saying that bullying is not an issue, nor that Lucas was not bullied. I AM saying, however, that there is absolutely no evidence to support that any such bullying played a role in his decision to end his life. Bullying IS an issue in our modern existence, even though it has always existed. Bullying has led to suicides on many occasions, and certainly brings low esteem and self-image. Again, as clearly as I know how to say it, Lucas did not end his life due to issues related to bullying.
"Now, back to the impact of the brash statements of yesterday again; Understanding it is only human nature to quantify and try to explain the traumatic events of our existence, when such statements are made without merit, the impact on those who find themselves on the receiving end of those statements are now the victims of the fiery and accusatory words we've thrown about. And, it's sad to realize those folks among us are now carrying that burden, especially when it is not based on fact or reality. All thotions exist only due to assumption, speculation, and false conclusions made by those far removed from the reality of the actual event.
"So, in many ways, these statements amount to nothing better than bullying. Bullying, plain and simple, except on a more intimate, personal level. This form of bullying is but a couple words away from accusing someone of playing a role in the death of another, either by action or inaction, and I find that absolutely unacceptable.
"So, bottom line, when we as a community experience such a needless tragedy, we have a collective responsibility to offer words of comfort, support, and encouragement to those directly impacted, and an inherent responsibility to AVOID making accusations, drawing conclusions, or making assumptions, placing blame or culpability. That is not our job as citizens and members of a communtiy. No one I know has the God-given authority to make such judgements, but God himself.
"So, for now, please do what responsible, civilized people should do; show suport and compassion where it is needed, and nothing else.
"Love your children. Better yet, love ON your children. Hug them, hold them tight, TELL them that you love them. Be there for them when they need you and when they don't. Communicate with them, be involved in their lives, and support them wherever you can. Nurture them, teach them, mentor them, be an example for them. Make them know how important they are to your own very existence.
"By extension, treat all those around you in similar fashion. Your friends, family, neighbors, congregation members, fellow parents, teachers, co-workers, EVERYONE in your circle of social interaction should be reminded that they are important to you as well. We'd all do well to remember one of the most basic principles of human social interaction- the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Speak to others as you would want them to speak to you. Speak OF others as you would want them to speak OF YOU. Pretty simple concept, but one most difficult for us as mere mortals to abide. Let's all make a new commitment to do better in this regard.
"So, next time such tragedy strikes (and sadly, it will), remember to offer only words of comfort, support, and compassion. Anything else is simply unhuman.
"I am always available to provide resources focused on prevention, but the reality of this profession is primarily reactive, seldom ever proactive. I find frustration and a sense of helplessness in that, but I do take comfort knowing this is a service provided to those who so desperately need it at a time they have no one else to which to turn. So, I sincerely appreciate all your kind words to me, but I assure you I'm ok. I'd rather have you turn those words of support toward the families, and not so much to me. I do appreciate it, but they need it more than I."