Cincinnati school officials have released disturbing surveillance video which reveals how a January 24 locker room assault left an eight-year-old unconscious two days before he hanged himself.
The video, shot from a hallway camera at Carson Elementary School shows Gabriel Taye being pulled to the ground by another student in a bathroom and left lying for over five minutes while other boys crowd over his body and kick and prod him.
Eventually, school officials come to his aid, but Gabriel’s mother says they did not tell her that her son had been assaulted or he had lost consciousness.
Now investigators are trying to determine if the bullying led to his suicide and whether criminal charges should be brought.
Immediately before the shocking assault, the video shows the assailant, who is wearing a red and gray coat and sporting a dyed hairstyle, walking into the bathroom.
In the early parts of the footage, the boy is seen consorting with his friends.
At one point, he knocks another classmate down to the floor by hitting him in the stomach, sending him down on all fours.
The boy with the dyed hair is then seen leaving the bathroom. He returns moments later and greets Gabriel, who is wearing a hooded jacket, in the bathroom.
It appears as if the boy and Gabriel are shaking hands. What happens next is unclear.
Gabriel falls suddenly to the ground and appears unconscious, though it is impossible to discern what exactly the boy did to him.
Attorneys for Gabriel’s mother who saw the video claim that he was thrown against the wall, though that is difficult to discern from the footage that has been released.
As Gabriel lies motionless on the ground, the boy immediately gives a celebratory chest-bump to a friend.
In the next five minutes, children are seen peering over Gabriel. In some cases, they kick him, step on him, hop over him, and appear to taunt him.
Some of the students videotaped going into the bathroom appear to be checking in on Gabriel.
Two minutes after Gabriel hit the ground, a school official is seen opening one of the doors leading to the hallway where the bathroom is located.
The official, who apparently does not see Gabriel lying on the ground, closes the door and disappears from view.
Three minutes later, after many children had already walked in and out of the bathroom with Gabriel lying on the ground, school officials are seen tending assistance.
At least three adult supervisors – including the assistant principal and the school nurse – are seen helping Gabriel to his feet and accompanying him out of bathroom and into the hallway.
Cincinnati school officials debated whether or not to release the video.
In the end, they decided it was in the public interest to distribute the footage. The school board sought and received approval from Gabriel’s mother.
‘We felt this video added to the public knowledge about what happened in this case,’ Cincinnati Public Schools said in a statement.
‘We believe parents and members of the community have the right to important information that helps them understand how safe students at local schools are.’
The video footage was taken from an incident that occurred on January 24. Two days later, Gabriel committed suicide by hanging himself in his bedroom with a necktie.
After viewing the video, a coroner has reopened an investigation into Gabriel’s suicide.
The coroner is urging police to treat this incident ‘as a homicide until proven otherwise.’
Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco told Cincinnati radio station WLW on Thursday that she asked police for a full investigation to determine whether there are contributing factors to Gabriel’s suicide, WXIX-TV reported.
‘It was very hard for me to believe that an 8-year-old would even know what it means to commit suicide,’ Sammarco told WLW.
Police initially closed the investigation, believing that school officials were in better position to handle the matter.
It was reported, however, that a detective asked for the name and date of birth of the assailant in the red and gray coat, according to USA Today.
Cincinnati police said in a statement that they would have no further comment about the case, and they directed question to the coroner’s office.
The coroner’s spokesman said Friday that Sammarco wasn’t available to discuss the investigation being reopened.
Cornelia Reynolds, Gabriel’s mother, declined an interview Friday and referred questions to her attorneys.
A woman who lives in the same Cincinnati apartment complex as Reynolds said Friday that her 13-year-old son sometimes played with Gabriel outside.
‘I would see him and his mother racing from their car to the building laughing,’ Mildred White said.
According to her attorneys, Reynolds didn’t learn of the bullying until the attorneys received a copy of a police investigative file that contained an email from a homicide detective to school officials describing the surveillance video.
The school district on Thursday disputed some of the detective’s descriptions but not the most crucial parts – the boy being knocked unconscious and the five-minute wait for help from an adult supervisor.
Reynolds picked up Gabriel from school that day after administrators called to say he had fainted but was now alert.
The district said administrators asked Reynolds to pick Gabriel up from school and take him to a hospital.
The attorneys dispute that. They said Reynolds decided herself to pick him up from school and that she didn’t take him to the hospital until her sister, who was baby-sitting while Reynolds was at work, called to say Gabriel had vomited and was complaining of stomach pains.
Leader said Gabriel had no history of mental health issues and described him as a happy-go-lucky kid.
When his mother asked him what happened at school the day he was bullied, he said he didn’t know, her attorneys said.
‘He really didn’t have any recollection of what had happened,’ said attorney Jennifer Branch, who also is representing Reynolds.