SMC student commits suicide on campus
For the first time in Santa Monica College's 84-year history, a student committed suicide on campus. SMC student Tian Lu, 30, whose identity was confirmed by Lt. Fred Corral of the Coroner’s Investigation Division, reportedly jumped from the rooftop of Parking Structure Four on Saturday at 3:31 p.m. during a swim meet.
Lu, who jumped between the business building and the school's swimming pools on the main campus, suffered severe trauma to the head, and the cause of death was multiple traumatic injuries, Corral said.
“His girlfriend was the one who dropped him off there,” said Sgt. Jere Romano of the Santa Monica College Police Department. ”It didn’t dawn on her what he was doing there until she tried to leave the area. She doubled back, and by that time he was gone.”
Multiple attendees at the event witnessed the incident and called police. However, since the call was placed on a cellphone, the Santa Monica Police Department was first on scene.
“Upon our first response, we weren’t sure if it was a criminal act, if someone had pushed him, or what the storyline was,” Romano said.
Lifeguard units performed CPR on Lu, who was still alive for 10 to 15 minutes after jumping. The SMCPD was the third unit on scene.
Romano coordinated the scene with the SMPD.
“I went up to the top of Structure Four to look and see if there were any notes left behind, or signs of a struggle, but the top of structure four was completely empty,” he said.
Lu’s girlfriend and 13-month-old daughter, also in the car, witnessed first responders resuscitating Lu’s body, Romano said.
“We immediately jumped into action and we got her away from the body,” Romano said. “We moved her into the business building offices. We had two chaplains here to assist with her and her grief and they brought teddy bears to distract the child.”
Throughout the incident, classes continued and passage through the parking structure remained open. The only area that was shut down was the business loop.
When the swim meet was over, attendees were sent out through the south side and around the building. Screens were put up as quickly as possible and police officers set up their cars to obstruct the view of the body.
"The college has a crisis prevention team that monitors troubled students who have outbursts in class, write and say things that stand out," Romano said.
However, police said that there were no warning signs from Lu.
Romano added that this is the second suicide attempt he has witnessed in his career. The first was a distraught student who also jumped off a parking structure near the Business Building after having been denied admission to Cornell.
“It’s scary that someone without warning could just do this,” Romano said. “We didn’t have any warning or anything.”
Lu’s girlfriend later confirmed to police that he had been suffering from bouts of depression for the past six months.
SMC’s on campus resource for students facing emotional challenges is the Psychological Services Department, located in the Liberal Arts Building.
Following the suicide, the department’s main emphasis is awareness of the services provided for students on campus, available to any enrolled student.
“A key component is to always seek help. Oftentimes, when you’re depressed, you tend to isolate yourself,” said Dr. Alison Brown, licensed psychologist counselor for SMC's Psychological Services.
“You have those types of demons that you cannot exercise out of your psyche,” said Romano. “You have to have an outlet somewhere else, and suicide is just not the option. There’s a number of resources out here available to students."