Family search­ing for an­swers af­ter sondies at GMU

Po­lice: Spot­syl­va­nia teen fell out win­dow af­ter in­gest­ing drugs

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SUNDAY IN VIRGINIA - BY TAFT COGHILL JR. The Free Lance-Star

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.”

MIKE MORONES/THE FREE LANCE-STAR

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.

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