A 13-year-old Westcliffe youth, Tanner Wray, died earlier this week of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The incident occurred late Monday night. The youth’s body was discovered early Tuesday on a property near his family home.
Tanner is the son of Dana and Holly Wray of Westcliffe. He has a brother, Samuel, 22, and a sister, Natalie, 19.
He was a seventh grader at Custer County School, and school officials described him as a straight-A student.
A crisis response team has been made available to students and staff at the district.
Tanner was first reported missing at 9 p.m. Monday night after he failed to return home from class.
“He was last seen by friends in downtown Westcliffe at 4:15 p.m.,” said Custer County Sheriff Fred Jobe. “After the missing child report came in, we sent out our deputies and Search and Rescue members to all of the boy’s possible hangout spots.”
Jobe reported that the youth had a fight with a friend earlier that day, but previously had never run away or shown any unhappy or depressive behavior.
County coroner Art Nordyke said the death occurred around 11 p.m. Monday, and that an autopsy is being performed in Colorado Springs. The handgun Wray used reportedly came from the family home.
“If parents think that something is going on with their kids,” Sheriff Jobe said, “they need to get them professional help. Right now, parents should listen to the other kids who knew Wray and let them talk about what they are feeling about this situation.”
The Custer County Middle School students were informed, with their parents present, at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7. The high school students were informed later that day.
“We extend out condolences to the Wray family,” said Custer County School Superintendent, Chris Selle. “We hurt with them.”
Selle explained that the school is focused on getting the students and staff through the tragedy.
“We are providing support for the students,” Selle said. “The school has a partnership with West Central Mental Health. We have counselors here for the students who knew him. A crisis response team was here on Wednesday (April 9) to help us determine further supports for our students who are grieving.”
Selle suggested that if any parents are concerned about their grieving children who knew Wray to call the main office. Selle stated that they can arrange for the child to sit down with a counselor. To contact the school, call 783-2291.
An account for the family has also been established at First State Bank in Westcliffe. – J.E. Ward