TAYLORSVILLE -- The family of a 14-year-old boy who committed suicide outside a school in a Salt Lake City suburb says he was a victim of bullying.
David Q. Phan was released early to his mother on Thursday from Bennion Junior High in Taylorsville before he returned an hour and a half later to a corner of the campus, where he shot himself in front of students.
"David had been bullied for the past few years. He would come home crying sometimes," the teen's cousin, Vy Lake, told the Deseret News.
"Bullies would walk home with him, taunting him and throwing things at him. After ignoring them didn't work, he started fighting back and got into trouble at school because of this," added Lake, who spoke on behalf of the boy's parents.
But the family neither wants to point a finger at anyone for the suicide, Lake said, nor speculate that his death was the result of bullying.
"We are not trying to place a blame on anyone," Lake said. "We just wish everyone would be more aware to bullying in the schools, and a little friendlier to their peers."
Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said school officials stayed in close contact with Phan after he reported "a bullying concern several years ago."
"Counselors have further remained in close regular contact with (him) because of other issues in his personal life," Horsley said in a statement. "Despite specific personal inquiries, David never reported any further bullying concerns and on the contrary, reported that things were going well."
The teen also was "facing significant personal challenges on multiple fronts," but Horsley declined to elaborate.
While his family is of Vietnamese heritage, Phan was born in Utah.
At a candelight vigil for the teen on Friday, family members said he faced constant torment from bullies.
His older brother, Don Phan, tried to make sense of the shooting as he stood in front of candles, flowers and a picture of the teen.
"Why? He loved everyone unconditionally," Don Phan told KTVX-TV. "I guess it just wasn't enough. It wasn't enough to stop the bullying."
The boy's cousin, Sue Lake, described incidents in which students stole Phan's gym clothes and sent him mean messages on Valentine's Day.
"I know kids would follow him home and call him names," she said. "I told him, 'You just have to ignore it."'