Aquan Lewis died in the depth of winter. We need to know why.
But first, we need to mourn his loss. All of us.
Police and school officials are releasing very little information, but the news today is sobering. The 10-year-old student from Oakton Elementary School in Skokie took his own life.
An autopsy today ruled the death of a boy found unresponsive Tuesday in a boys bathroom at an Evanston elementary school a suicide, officials said.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office made the ruling today and said 10-year-old Aquan Lewis, of Skokie, died by hanging, an office spokeswoman said.
Lewis was pronounced dead at 4:05 a.m. this morning at Children’s Memorial Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
A janitor at the school had said the boy had been taken down from a hook in the restroom on Tuesday.
Speaking at a news conference at Evanston-Skokie School Dist. 65headquarters at noon, police and school officials steadfastly refused to discuss even the most basic details.
Supt. Hardy Murphy expressed sorrow over the death of a pupil, but declined to say much more. “If there is someone to blame, I have to take it,” he said, because the death occurred while he is chief of the district.
Commander Tom Guenther, a spokesman for Evanston police, remained equally tight-lipped. He refused to give a time line of when the boy was first noticed missing from class, who found him or what time he was found.
We need to know more about what happened to this young man. There are rumors circulating that need a response before a tragic situation gets even worse. Was Aquan a victim of bullying? What could lead a child so young to hang himself? Was it really suicide? Family and friends say no, it couldn’t be.
We need to know.
This story is even more sad given the promise this young man showed, the spark:
Oakton parent Candace Smith of Evanston visited Aquan’s home shortly after the morning meeting at the school. Smith said she and Aquan’s mother had grown up together.
Smith said she was struggling to make sense of his death. She described Aquan as a good student who enjoyed school, loved to read and played sports.
“This was a young boy [who] was loved and respected. This is a tragedy for this world because we don’t know what he would have become,” Smith said.
The boy had just finished his first season of tackle football with the Evanston Junior Wildkit Football program. At just over 80 pounds, he was assigned to the flyweights team, where he rotated between running back, receiver, cornerback and safety, said program director Craig Thompson.
His speed and athleticism made him a versatile player, but the friendships he developed with his two dozen teammates were just as striking.
“He started out more reserved, but he developed a good camaraderie just by being around other folks,” Thompson said. “He was getting better every week.”
Why would any of our children kill themselves? What more do we need to do to ensure they don’t?
I’ll not waste time with unnecessary speculation, but police and school officials need to be more forthcoming. We need to know what happened to this young man. Why did this child, so full of promise, choose to take his own life?
Meanwhile, we mourn with the family and friends of Aquan Lewis, and offer our prayers and support.
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus