AMHERST, N.Y. — Police in the town of Amherst in suburban Buffalo, N.Y. have opened a criminal investigation in the suicide death of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who was bullied with anti-gay slurs for the past two years, both at school and online.
The Amherst Police Department’s Special Victims Unit has said it will determine whether to charge some students with harassment, cyber-harassment or hate crimes. Police said three students in particular might have been involved.
“The special victims unit is looking into the circumstances prior to his death,” Captain Michael Camilleri said. “We are not sure if there is anything criminal or not.”
According to Camilleri, no anti-bullying laws are on the books in New York State, so investigators would have to determine whether aggravated harassment charges fit this case.
“Whether suspects would be tried in juvenile court would depend on whether the alleged bully was 16 or older,” he said.
Rodemeyer had begun his freshman year at Williamsville North High School — Both Amherst and Williamsville are just outside Buffalo. But Jamey’s parents and friends say that the bullying had begun during middle school. He had told his parents and sister and his closest friends that he had endured hateful comments in school and online, mostly all directed at his sexual orientation.
Jamey was found dead outside his home Sunday morning, but Camilleri told reporters that since the investigation was still active, police would not release any details on how he killed himself.
Jamey’s parents, school classmates and friends have expressed outrage over the bullying and tormenting that he experienced online on social media networking sites. The young teen was a also massive fan of pop singer Lady Gaga, who also expressed her anger on Twitter Wednesday night:
“Bullying must become illegal. It is a hate crime,” she tweeted.
“I am meeting with our President. I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation has the power to end it. Trend it #MakeALawForJamey,” the singer also posted to twitter.
Amherst Police Chief John C. Askey, in a press briefing Thursday told reporters that investigators had spoken with Williamsville Schools Superintendent Scott G. Martzloff, who has pledged the school district’s full cooperation.
“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,” said Askey.
Rodemeyer’s suicide also marks a somber beginning to LGBT History Month in October this year.
“Jamey’s suicide is a heartbreaking reminder of the vulnerability of gay teens. Every day in the United States a gay teen’s life ends in suicide. They are bullied and marginalized. While some may say that Jamey took his life, unrelenting homophobia murdered him,” stated Malcolm Lazin, founder and Executive Director of Equality Forum in a press release late Thursday.