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Parents say son's shooting death was an accident

Forest Grove police have deemed the 15-year-old boy's death a suicide
by: , Ryan Tarkington

A Forest Grove teenager was found dead in his home Sunday night of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The Forest Grove Police Department has ruled the death of Ryan Tarkington Jr., 15, a suicide, while his family maintains the gun was fired unintentionally.

'That was not a suicide, it was an accident,' Vicky Tarkington, the boy's mother, told the News-Times. 'Ryan wasn't capable of that.'

Fellow students at Forest Grove High School, where Ryan was a sophomore, describe him as quiet, but seemingly happy.

Although there was no note or other sign of impending suicide found at the scene, police say the physical evidence analyzed by a medical examiner indicated Ryan had intentionally killed himself in the family's home on Brooke Street in Forest Grove.

'Our conclusion is that it was a suicide,' said Captain Aaron Ashbaugh, spokesperson for the police department. 'A substantial number of suicide investigations I've been involved with have had no suicide note. It's not unusual at all.'

According to police reports and the family's own account, Ryan had behaved normally throughout the day prior to his death. Around noon, he attended a movie along with his parents and his older sister, Amanda, 19, and later helped his father change the oil in his truck.

After finishing the job shortly after 4 p.m., father and son sat down to watch television but Ryan Sr. soon fell asleep.

He was awakened a few hours later, at roughly 8:20 p.m., to his wife and daughter screaming, 'Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!' according to police reports.

The two women had returned from shopping at the Target in Hillsboro to find the light on in the master bedroom of the home, where Ryan Sr. and his wife slept.

Upon peering into the bedroom, Vicky and Amanda found Ryan Jr. lying face-up on the floor next to their bed, with a gunshot wound above his brow and a pool of blood surrounding his head. His right hand held a gun that now lay in his lap. The gun, a Taurus Model 85 .38 revolver, had belonged to Ryan Jr.'s beloved grandmother who had died in 2004, family members said.

Both Ryan Sr. and Amanda told police that the boy had been severely affected by the woman's death. While the rest of the family had come to terms with her passing, Ryan Jr. had trouble moving on even two years later, his family told police.

Vicky Tarkington said after his grandmother's death, Ryan Jr. grew depressed, which prompted an uncle to discuss suicide with the boy. 'Ryan told him that suicide was stupid,' Vicky recounted. 'He said it was a cheap way out.'

They also say Ryan had a lot to look forward to: his 16th birthday was the very next day, and he eagerly anticipated the associated cake and ice cream, as well as getting his driver's permit.

In addition, Vicky Tarkington said, hunting season was coming up and Ryan Jr. - who was experienced with guns and never before behaved recklessly with them - was awaiting the first outing of the season. In the future, the boy aimed to become mechanic or a professional bull rider.

To those close to him, such plans indicate he was not planning to commit suicide. If he were, it seems incomprehensible that they would not be able to notice the symptoms.

'We're a very open family,' Vicky said. 'This was not a suicide. I know him better than anyone else and I'd stake my life on that.'

She said that on Monday evening, after word of Ryan's death spread through the high school, more than a dozen students and teachers stopped by to find out what was going on.

'They kept hearing rumors that it was suicide,' she said. 'We told them there's no way he'd do that.'