In January, a 16-year-old Illinois boy committed suicide mere hours after police officers confronted him about a recording on his phone of an alleged sexual encounter and threatened him with the possibility of having to register as a sex offender. Now, his family is speaking out and intends to file a lawsuit against both the school district and the police department.
“I think they wanted to scare him straight,” Maureen Walgren, the boy’s mother, said. “Instead, they scared him to death.”
Police were investigating claims that the boy, Corey, had played the alleged recording of a consensual sexual encounter with another student for his friends. Officers showed up to Naperville North High School to question him about the material, which they referred to as “child pornography,” and threatened to put him on the sex offender registry.
Within three hours, Corey took his own life by falling from the roof of a five-story parking garage.
Investigators say they had no intention to press any charges against Corey and simply wanted to make the seriousness of the situation clear by scaring him. According to Walgren, the officer wanted to download the contents of Corey’s phone, but needed her permission first. She said she would be at the school within 50 minutes. She arrived 15 minutes early, but it was too late.
Corey had already left the building. Police asked Walgren if there was any reason to believe he would hurt himself, to which she told them, “Under normal circumstances no, but you scared him pretty good.”
As police and school officials searched for him — his mother only five blocks away from the parking garage — he plummeted the 53 feet to the ground. Corey was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The Walgrens say their son’s death could have been prevented, and they hope their lawsuit will change the way schools and law enforcement handle interactions with minors.
“There has to be a change in their policy and their procedures,” Walgren said. “Corey’s death cannot go by with no meaning at all.”