Police are investigating whether a suburban Buffalo teen was the target of harassment or hate crimes by school bullies before he committed suicide, four months after discussing his struggle with his sexuality in a video he posted online.
Amherst police told Buffalo media outlets that it's too early in the investigation to say whether any charges will be filed in the death of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who killed himself last weekend at his parents' Williamsville home.
"We're going to look into whether he was the victim of any crimes leading up to his suicide," Police Chief John C. Askey told the Buffalo News.
"We're not indicating, not speculating at this point, that that is the cause of his death, ... but independently, there may have been crimes that have been committed against him."
District officials have said they're cooperating in the investigation.
The Amherst Police Special Victims Unit is investigating the circumstances that led up to Rodemeyer's death, said NBC station WGRZ.
School and community members suggested to police that Jamey had been subjected to what would amount to criminal harassment, Askey said.
"We've heard that there were some specific students, an identifiable group of students, that had specifically targeted Jamey, or had been picking on him for a period of time," Askey said. Police are focusing on one to three students who may have bothered Jamey since he was a student at Heim Middle School.
In a YouTube video he posted online in May, the teen talked about being targeted by school bullies because of his sexual orientation. The video had a positive message that things do get better.
It was all part of a "speak your mind" campaign spearheaded by Jamey's favorite singer, Lady Gaga. Gaga also spoke out about Jamey's death and told fans she would try to meet with President Obama, hoping to make bullying illegal.
Jamey spoke out online through the years, especially on his account on the social website Formspring, his mother has said. In response to his anti-hate postings, he received a lot of hate messages, all from anonymous sources.
According to the Buffalo News, comments included:
"Kill yourself, you have nothing left," one person posted anonymously.
"Listen to us, you're a bad person, you don't belong here, jump off a bridge or something," another person wrote.
"I think when a tragedy like this happens, every single person in our school district — every adult, parents, community members — ask the question, 'What else could I have done to prevent this?'" Superintendent Scott G. Martzloff told the Buffalo newspaper. "And with an issue as complex as a suicide, in many cases, it's multifaceted."
Jamey's family and friends had supported him through his journey.
"All of Jamey's friends were there for him. They have seen the struggle he went through every day so they went to the guidance counselors," Jamey's parents Tracy and Tim Rodemeyer said.
A candlelight vigil and march in memory of Jamey is scheduled for Sunday night, followed by a fundraiser for the family at Club Marcella. Donations can be made at any Bank of America branch in care of "Friends of Jamey Rodemeyer."