Folsom police are investigating the death of a 12-year-old middle-school student in his home this week, and students at schools where he attended were being offered counseling, officials reported Thursday.
Thursday night, friends of seventh-grader Ronin Shimizu – members of the Vista Jr. Eagles cheerleading squad to which he belonged – organized a candlelight vigil near his home in Folsom.
Ronin, who turned 12 in June, was enrolled at Folsom Cordova Community Charter School. Students there study independently at home and pursue the curriculum from the district. Teachers, parents and students meet every two weeks at Sutter Middle School.
Folsom Middle School Principal John Bliss, where Ronin attended when he was in sixth grade, sent a letter home to parents on Thursday saying the campus would provide counseling and support “to students and staff who need assistance dealing with their grief.”
Ronin died shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Sacramento County coroner’s website. Sgt. Jason Browning, spokesman for Folsom police, declined to share the details, describing it only as “not a suspicious death.”
Non-suspicious deaths include natural death, accidental death or suicide, Browning said when asked to elaborate. He said Sacramento County coroner’s officials will determine the actual cause.
Some students posting on the social media site Instagram said Ronin had been bullied and said they saw that as a link to his death.
School officials responded to those concerns.
“While we do not know all of the circumstances surrounding Ronin’s passing, we will continue our work to maintain a safe, caring and positive school environment free from bullying and harassment,” Bliss wrote in his letter to parents.
Daniel Thigpen, spokesman for the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, said instances of bullying against Ronin had been reported in recent years. “I can tell you we looked into each one of them and investigated them fully and took appropriate action for each instance.”
“We don’t know if there was a connection between bullying and his death,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we want all of our students to be protected from any form of harassment at school.”
Youths and adults gathered throughout Thursday evening for the vigil in front of the Shimizu home, with some going forward to hug Ronin’s father, Brandon Shimizu.
Neighbor Danii Bello, 14, said Ronin loved cheerleading and liked to make his own clothes.
Several of those who came to the vigil did not know Ronin or his family but had learned of the boy’s death through local schools or social media.
“I have a child at the same school,” said Kazmiera Grundy. “I came to support the family. Folsom is a close community.”
Luke Grundy, 12, said he wasn’t well-acquainted with Ronin but knew who he was.
“I wanted to support him,” he said. “I heard he got he got bullied, and I just wanted to be here for him.”
Call The Bee’s Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee.