The family of a 10-year-old boy who died after being hanged on a bathroom hook at his school Tuesday is unsatisfied with the medical examiner's suicide ruling and believes the boy may have been the victim of bullies.
Aquan Lewis, an Illinois fifth-grader who loved football and basketball, was found dead on the bathroom floor by a school janitor at Oakton Elementary School in Evanston, Ill. The janitor, Elliott Lieteau, told The Associated Press that others had pulled the boy off the hook and attempted to perform CPR.
Lallie Marshall, Aquan's great-grandmother, told ABCNews.com that the family believes he was hoisted onto the hook by a group of boys. In the days after Aquan's death, she said, they have heard he might have been the target of school bullies.
"The way the stall is made and everything, he couldn't hang himself," she said.
Aquan's mother, Angel Marshall has hired an attorney to investigate the circumstances of her son's death. The family wants to know why school officials didn't keep track of him and why officials believe a seemingly happy child would take his own life at such a young age.
"The medical examiner, before the police have ever done the investigation, has concluded suicide … I think it's reckless, frankly," said Chicago attorney Todd Smith.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Aquan had told a teacher he planned to kill himself, and the teacher may also have shared the boy's comments with another staff member. One of the sources, according to the newspaper, charged that school personnel failed to take the threat seriously. According to a law enforcement report, Aquan had been scolded by school staff earlier Tuesday.
Neglect allegations have been lodged against the school with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in connection with the death, DCFS spokesman Jimmie Whitelow confirmed.
A doctor with the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, who requested her name not be used, said Aquan was hanged on a bathroom stall door by the collar of his polo shirt. A foot print was found on the toilet in the stall, she said, indicating he had used the seat to get to the door hook.
The doctor said attempts were made to resuscitate him, "but I think it was too late."
Police said Aquan had vital signs while en route to the hospital, but was pronounced dead early Wednesday morning. The doctor at the Medical Examiner's Office said she did not know how long the child had been hanging from the hook.
But Smith said that Aquan, the middle of three children, was a "happy kid" who told his mom before school Tuesday that he was looking forward to basketball practice in the afternoon. Lallie Marshall said Aquan helped get his 5-year-old sister on the bus and then hopped on his own bus to school.
While Angel Marshall has not made formal plans to sue the school, "I think all things are on the table," Smith said. "The mother is really trying to find out what happened to her son."
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists suicide as the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 to 24, it lists just 11 deaths for children under age 10 in 2005, the most current data available.