Family searching for answers after sondies at GMU
Police: Spotsylvania teen fell out window after ingesting drugs
Bernhard and Jill Medina were on their way home to Spotsylvania County from the State Fair of Virginia on Sept. 30 when they received the phone call every parent fears.
The George Mason University Police Department was on the line informing the family that their middle son, Tristan, had died at age 19.
“We drove home, and I don’t remember driving home,” Bernhard Medina said. “I just followed the car in front of me.”
The cause of Tristan’s death was even more startling to the family. The former Massaponax High School football standout allegedly ingested a hallucinogenic drug, stormed through the glass window of his room in Potomac Heights residence hall and fell five floors to the ground.
Tristan, a sophomore, was found alive but unresponsive about 4: 40 p. m. and transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
As the Medina family prepares for a visitation on Saturday, a funeral on Sunday and a burial on Monday, they’re seeking answers as to what exactly happened to their son. They’re unsure if he willingly or unknowingly used the drug. Jill Medina said she was told by police the drug was believed to be LSD.
Toxicology reports have been conducted by the medical examiner, and results are expected within two to three weeks.
“The bottom line is we’re in the dark,” Bernhard Medina said. “We have nothing. It just doesn’t add up to us. Tristan was not alone when he died. There were other people there. … Nobody is telling me anything other than he was on drugs and he fell. That’s it.”
Bernhard Medina said at least three other students were in the room. He said he wants to know if any of them attempted to stop or control his son.
George Mason President Ángel Cabrera released a statement that said many questions remained and the campus police department continued to investigate.
George Mason Police Chief Carl Rowan Jr. sent an email to students and staff saying that no foul play was suspected but that other students may have taken or possessed the drug, putting them at risk. The school has an amnesty program that allows students to drop off drugs without punishment.
“One thing we know is that drug use is neither recreational nor safe,” Cabrera said. “It can be extremely dangerous. The stakes are very high and they can be life- threatening.”
The Medina family said Tristan had no history of drug use. Jill Medina noted that he was meticulous about his appearance and diet.
Bernhard Medina, who works at The Free Lance- Star’s Print Innovators printing plant, said when the family went on a weeklong vacation this past summer to visit his wife’s parents in Ohio, Tristan showed no signs of being a drug user.
“My son did not have any drug cravings. He did not go crazy. He was not craving for any drugs or any fix or whatever,” Bernhard Medina said. “He came back just like Tristan always is, and 30 days later, my son’s dead. That’s all I understand and that’s all I know. He’s been in school for one month and now he’s dead. So it’s hard for me to comprehend this when I had just taken a trip with him. I spent an entire week with him.”
Bernhard Medina said he’s concerned there have been “inconsistencies” from the campus police. He also wanted Tristan’s fraternity house searched, but was told that’s up to the Fairfax County Police Department since the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house is off campus.
“It’s just surreal,” Bernhard Medina said. “You hear the news and you’re trying to process it, but at the same time you’re trying to deny it. It’s just a constant battle in your mind.”
Tristan’s former Massaponax coaches and teammates are also having a difficult time coming to grips with his death.
Former Massaponax quarterback Joey Benden, now a sophomore at the U. S. Military Academy, was attending a 3: 30 p. m. college football game between Army and University of Texas- El Paso when he received multiple text messages from Tristan.
Benden said he was unable to respond to the messages because of poor cellphone service inside the stadium.
Benden declined to disclose the contents of the messages. Tristan also called his older brother, Tyler Medina, a recent Old Dominion University graduate about 4 p. m. Tyler Medina declined to discuss what the conversation was about.
Benden said his messages from Tristan were a bit alarming, but added his longtime friend joked around a lot.
“It wasn’t anything really bad, but he was just saying what was going on,” Benden said. “When I saw it, I said, ‘ Oh, this is Tristan joking around.’ I don’t want to say we never took him seriously, but he was a big joke guy and you never really knew if he was trying to be serious.”
When Benden returned to his room, he received a message from his mother that Tristan had died. Benden and Tristan are both 2016 Massaponax graduates and played football together for five years.
“I think that he just trusted me,” Benden said of why Tristan contacted him. “He trusted my judgment and that if he was in a situation I could help guide him out of it. At least that’s what I hope he thought.”
Jill and BernhardMedina sit outside their Spotsylvania County home with sons Tyler, 23, and Nicolas, 16, while holding a photo of their son Tristan, who died after falling froma windowatGeorge MasonUniversity.