GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. — Jack Padilla's death is a tragedy. The 15-year-old Cherry Creek High School freshman took his own life earlier this year, and his mother and friends say some of his classmates may have driven him to it.
Giovani Villagrana and Nina Petros said Jack left a considerable impact. He was quirky, athletic and not scared of anything.
"Just any way he could express himself, he did," Giovani said.
Jack's friends said he had struggled with depression before, but things became severely dark for him when they said students at school bullied him constantly.
"They sat on him; they pushed him around," Villagrana said. "They were terrible to him."
Jack took his life on Valentine’s Day.
"It’s not just a death, it's a suicide, and it comes with guilt and so many questions," Villagrana said. "And it’s really hard to comprehend that your friend would really want to die."
Villagrana and Petros told Denver7 that the harassment had spanned the last two years, but appeared minor during their 8th-grade year. They didn’t know the bullying was so severe this year.
"I thought I knew him so well and then like I didn't even have any idea that this was coming," Petros said.
Weeks after his death in a public Facebook post, his mother Jeanine Padilla shared a message:
"Our family needs healing prayers. We want to be able to remember the many happy memories we shared with our son Jack and to one day be able to smile and laugh again," said Padilla.
She told our partners at the Denver Post she didn't know about the bullying until after her son's death when she found messages on his phone from at least five teens. She then made a call for action asking both the Greenwood Village Police Department to investigate and the Cherry Creek School District to expel, "the bullies who repeatedly wrote to our son telling him to kill himself and told him they were bringing a gun to school to shoot and kill him."
Jack's friends are tired of living in devastation. Suicides of their peers should never happen. Tragically, Jack's was one of two this semester at Cherry Creek High.
Jack’s brother and friends have started a movement, #jackstrong17, that's raised nearly $40,000 to fund a non-profit called Jack Strong, focused on teen mental health awareness.
In a statement to Denver7, the Cherry Creek School District said that no student reported any bullying until after Jack's death and are working closely with police looking into bullying allegations.