Caleb Hershiser photo: Facebook
Caleb Hershiser photo: Facebook

Mother relives the moment ‘bullied’ son committed suicide

An Ohio mother relived the horrifying moment she realized her allegedly bullied son shot himself in the head -- and breaking her foot from running so fast to save the dying teen.

Anna Hershiser told the Sandusky Register that the night of April 2 started as any other as she ate ice cream with her husband Rob, daughter Kendall, 12, and 14-year-old son, Caleb, at their home in Willard - a city of 6200 people about 75 miles southwest of Cleveland.

But just as they were preparing for bed, Rob Hershiser heard a "pop" and later found Caleb lying next to his hunting rifle on the floor, bleeding from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The devastated mum sprinted towards the mortally wounded boy, but she tumbled and snapped a bone in her foot - a memory still hazy weeks later.

"I don't remember falling and breaking my foot," she told the paper.

Hershiser told the newspaper during an interview at an in-law's home - where the family has stayed since Caleb's death - that a dispatcher later asked her to check for her son's pulse, but she found nothing. When two cops from the Willard Police Department arrived at the home, they asked the family why they thought Caleb had killed himself, she told the newspaper.

"We told them he'd been bullied," Anna Hershiser said.

The anguished mother told the newspaper Caleb had been tormented throughout his time at school, and attempts to address the problem were met with reluctant replies from the teen. She remembers one instance when Caleb come home from school with shattered glasses.

"I asked how it happened and Caleb told me one of the boys in gym class threw a ball at his face," she told the newspaper. "I've been to the school several times this year and complained."

In 2015, Caleb told his mother about being shoved around in a hallway at school by bullies, an incident she was able to get him to discuss - bullying that was investigated and confirmed by surveillance cameras and school officials, Anna Hershiser said.

Caleb did have a support network at the school, however, with a few friends and a guidance counselor who was his former sixth-grade teacher.

"There are a lot of good teachers, good students [in Willard Schools]," she said. "A lot of them have comforted my family and me."

But exactly who or what pushed Caleb to take his own life earlier this month remains a mystery to Hershiser, who said she doesn't know the student Willard Police Chief Mark Holden said had been cleared as Caleb's accused tormentor.

Police have not talked with relatives since Caleb's suicide, she said, and she doesn't know any particular students who may have harassed her son.

Holden did not reply to questions about whether bullying was a factor in the teen's suicide, the newspaper reports. He said the results of the investigation would be forwarded to a prosecutor once complete, but declined to indicate any progress in the probe.

Holden told the Norwalk Reflector earlier this month that there was "no indication" that bullying played a role in the teen's death.

"My officers are still interviewing people," Holden told the paper. "We've conducted extensive interviews with anyone who has had contact with him. There is no indication that bullying was involved. That seems to be the catchphrase being bandied around right now … We've talked to everyone that's had contact with him and there was one person in particular mentioned and it doesn't look like bullying was involved."

Willard Schools Superintendent Jeff Ritz told the newspaper district officials would investigate all accusations of bullying and send a "cease and desist order" to offending students if they were determined to be aggressors.

"There may be other punishments as well depending on the severity," Ritz said, adding that the goal is to stop bullying from repeating.

"Education is very important," he continued. "This may include counseling of both the victim and/or the bully and it may include discipline up to and including expulsion."

But Hershiser is still looking for answers from the school district, including better ways to address bullying so other families don't have to relive her nightmare.

"As a school district and community, we have to step up and protect our children," she told the Sandusky Register. "I want [police and school officials] to open their eyes."

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