Police rule freshman’s death a suicide

Freshman pre-med student Hobie Kopczynski’s death on March 30 was ruled a suicide by the Richmond Police. Kopcynski leaves behind his mother, father, grandmother and sister. Photo courtesy of Kathy Kopczynski.

Liz Butterfield
Online News Editor

VCU freshman Hobie Dunston Kopczynski, 18, died on Sunday, March 30, and police have ruled his death a suicide.

At 11:18 p.m., Richmond Police received notification of a person “down” in the 100 block of Tredegar Street. Upon arrival, officers found a deceased man.

The person appeared to have jumped from the Robert E. Lee Street bridge and died, according to RPD spokesperson Gene Lepley. Between Monday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon, police identified the 18-year-old pre-med freshman from York County, Va. The Richmond office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia reported the death was a suicide.

Kopczynski, who aspired to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, graduated from York High School in 2013 with a scholarship from the school’s alumni association. He played football, wrestled and volunteered for the York County Youth Commission.

Kopczynski’s roommate in Gladding Residence Center, Derek Pierce, tweeted Kopczynski had been missing since 9 p.m. on Sunday. A photo of Kopczynski was retweeted more than 100 times in the hours that followed.

Hundreds of VCU students and friends tweeted using the hashtag #RIPHobie with prayers and condolences the following day.

“We are sad to report the death of a student off campus,” said VCU spokesperson Mike Porter in an email. “The university has been in touch with those who are close to the student to make them aware of available university resources that provide support.”

Kopczynski’s father, Barry, said his son was a friendly, good hearted person who always wanted to help others out and was close with his family.

Kopczynski visited his family in Yorktown often on the weekends, but Barry said his son usually cut his visits short so he could return to VCU and prepare for the week ahead.

Stephan Martin, who said he was Kopczynski’s boyfriend at the time of his death, said Kopczynski was a caring person who put the needs of others ahead of his own.

“He didn’t talk about the battles he fought inside … (he) didn’t want to burden me with his problems,” Martin said.

On the night Kopczynski died, Martin said he began to receive cryptic and sentimental messages from Kopczynski’s phone number, including one that said, “I love you baby, forever and always remember that,” and another that said everything is going to be fine.

Martin received four messages before about 10:30 p.m., when he received a direct message on Twitter from a friend who reported Kopczynski had gone missing.

“He made a huge impact on my life and I’m just glad he got to be a part of it,” Martin said.

Kopczynski enjoyed working on computers, cleaning cars and jetskiing. In addition to his father and grandmother, Kopczynski leaves behind his mother Kathy and his 12-year-old sister Landyn.

The family held a funeral on Friday, April 4 at the Crooks Memorial United Methodist Church in Yorktown, Va. About 1,500 people attended the service. Kopczynski was buried in the Peninsula Memorial Park later that afternoon.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among college students, ahead of alcohol related deaths each year, according to an American Public Health Association study from 2011. VCU students may use University Counseling Services or call 1-800-784-2433 for immediate help.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the Robert E. Lee bridge as the Leigh Street bridge. The CT regrets this error. 


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