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Lance Lundsten update

Timothy Kincaid

January 20th, 2011

More information is coming out about Lance Lundsten’s death, and some of it is contradictory. As is sometimes the case in these situations, answers are not easy.

Lance’s father, understandably, took an autopsy finding and clung to the hope that Lance’s death was natural (Herald)

Lance’s father called KSAX and said he received a call from the coroner saying Lance had an enlarged heart and died of a coronary edema. He said he believed it was not a suicide.

He also believed there were no signs of drugs or alcohol in his son’s system, but the toxicology report has not been finished according the medical examiner’s office.

However, the coroner has said that this was not the cause. (KSAX)

The preliminary findings in the autopsy of 18-year-old Lance Lundsten showed the teen did not die from an enlarged heart, according to Douglas County Medical Examiner Dr. Mark Spanbauer.

The teen’s heart was slightly enlarged, but that finding was a secondary finding to an undetermined cause, according to Spanbauer.

Lance’s will be determined by the medical examiner after the autopsy process and laboratory testing is complete, a process that may take weeks.

Meanwhile, another gay kid has gone on record about the atmosphere at Jefferson. (KSAX)

The death of 18-year-old Jefferson High School student Lance Lundsten caused several to speak out about bullying in Greater Minnesota schools. Nineteen-year-old Caleb Shafer said he was bullied from middle school through high school.

“I was suicidal,” Shafer said. “I was very depressed … I didn’t want to talk to anyone … I would cry myself to sleep.”

Shafer attended Jefferson High School at the same time Lundsten did.

The school district has responded – predictably – by pretending that the situation didn’t happen and that there is no bullying going on at all. (KSAX)

At times like this, people are trying to make sense of the loss. We are aware that statements attributed to unidentified students have been reported by the media. However we have no information regarding the source of or any factual basis for the statements. It would be disrespectful, as well as a violation of privacy laws for us to engage in speculation regarding the cause or circumstances of Lance’s death. Today, and in the days ahead, we need to pull together and honor Lance’s memory.

Missing from the four paragraph letter were the words “gay” and “bullying” and “suicide” and “problem” and “policy” and “correct” and ” avoid.” Nope. Nothing to see here, folks, move on along.

But they are going to offer counseling for those students who are having “a tough day.”

Although this story hasn’t, as best we can tell, seemed to much impact the administration at Jefferson other than perhaps some minor inconvenience, it has changed the perspective of one student. Alex Sonju, in his words:

This is the Truth

As most of you know, a kid in my school commited suicide due to bullying him about his sexual preferance.

I never thought it would be a reality. I’ve heard about suicide, and thought to myself “Wow, that’s horrible”, then went on with my normal day. But when someone in my own town, in my own school does it, it really changes my thinking.(found out it’s a heart condition, but i still feel exactly the same on this issue) It makes me think of how just a few words can change so many lives. To anyone I’ve ever said anything mean about, I truely am sorry. I don’t care if it was as a joke, or if I was serious. We’re all guilty of saying mean things. Joking or not. Because in turn, those jokes, cause death.

Now a days, bullying isnt the typical “give me your lunch money” or getting beat up at recess. Today’s bullying is much different. I know what it’s like to hear mean things. I’ve been called gay before, I’ve been called fat, I’ve been laughed at, I’ve been talked about. And to all those people that have done this to me, I forgive you. I hope with Lance’s story, it serves as a wake up call to everyone. Your friends might find it hilarious, you might get a couple high fives from them, but what are they gonna be doing when you tell them “I’m the reason someone killed themself! High five anyone?” No.

I pray to God that Jefferson will change from this. I hope that teachers won’t just sit by and stare anymore. I hope more kids will stand up. I know I will. I’ll do it for you Lance. I don’t care if I don’t like the kid they’re making fun of, or if I love them. I don’t care if they’re black or white. I don’t care if they’re gay or straight. I won’t care. I know it will take alot of strength, but I’d rather stand up for someone, then to see them go. And I hope you do the same.

Most of the time though, when you do confront a bully, they usually say “I was joking”. Yeah, well, sorry to say this, but suicide isn’t a joke. Either is any form of self harm. In fact, it’s the opposite of a joke. Some people say that self harm is a way to attract attention… well, it kind of is. It’s like they’re trying to tell people “look what your doing to me”. And it’s also trying to tell everyone else “I need help”. Most of the time, all they need is someone to talk to, someone to have trust in. I’ve been at some low points in life. I’ve been made fun of. I know what it’s like. The thing that would have helped me the most is easily someone to talk to. Just someone that will say “hey, how are you”. Just by talking to that one person, it shows that you care. So, that’s why if anyone, and I mean anyone, want’s to talk, about anything at all, PLEASE talk to me. I’d love to talk to you. I know I might not seem like the person that would be able to hold a serious conversation, but believe me, I can have deep heart to heart talks. If you ever want to talk, feel free to talk to me on chat, or message me.

Well, I could go on for hours, but I think I would bore you guys. I’m just trying to get across my point that bullying is serious, and if you guys ever need to talk, I am ALWAYS here for you. You guys are all loved, and your all amazing people, no matter what anyone says.



January 20th, 2011 | LINK

Wow. *Student* Alex Sonju steps up, does some serious self-reflection, apologizes to those he’s hurt in the past, and reaches out to people in pain.

Jefferson High School offers no apology (I’m sure for legal reasons), but more tellingly doesn’t even admit to there being a problem!

I’d say the adults running Jefferson High School could learn a lot from Alex Sonju.

January 20th, 2011 | LINK

I don’t know who Alex Sonju is, or whether he even exists. I don’t know all the relevant facts about Lance Lundsten’s life and death. But if Alex is a real student at Jefferson, he is a courageous young man who has taken the time to reflect on circumstances there and on his life and write an extraordinary letter. I tend to be skeptical about a lot of these things, but I still cry when I read them.

Thanks, Timothy and BTB, for your diligent and thoughtful reporting on the continuing tragedy of bullying in our schools and communities.

January 20th, 2011 | LINK

Alex Sonju wrote a magnificent statement.

It left me in tears.

January 20th, 2011 | LINK

@tristam–I share your skepticism; however, a Google search for “Alex Sonju” turns up many hits on several different social network sites (Facebook, Twitter,, His online trail goes back at least to Feb. 22, 2010, and he at least seems to live in Minnesota (where Jefferson H.S. is located). So he seems legit.

January 20th, 2011 | LINK

We’re never going to get to the bottom of anti-gay bullying if we don’t get to a place where “gay” is not a slur, or as Alex Sonju says, “a mean thing” to be called.

Tommy Lee
January 20th, 2011 | LINK

Alex is real, he is a friend of mine on FB. I am a local Radio DJ here in this small town and Alex and I have started talking. He is also a big Justin beiber fan..but we forgive him for that :)

Alex Sonju
January 20th, 2011 | LINK

Thank you all for this. It means so much. I just hope my story reaches one person and helps them through a tough day. This is all a gift from God, it’s so amazing that this is reaching so many people. Here is a link to the original, feel free to leave your comments, I love feedback.!/notes/alex-sonju/this-is-the-truth/176486969054882

you all are amazing, Thank you so much. RIP Lance, I think of you every day <3

Julie (mother)
January 20th, 2011 | LINK

Alex, I am so very proud of you for the accomplishment that you’ve done and are doing. I do hope that you take a journey and make a difference in your school and community by organizing and having a rally on anti-bullying. To everyone who’s supporting Alex, I want to thank you all for supporting and giving him positive comments.
-Your loving mother

Timothy (TRiG)
January 21st, 2011 | LINK

Alex: here’s a working link.


Mihangel apYrs
January 21st, 2011 | LINK

Alex Sonju
my congratulations on your courage and compassion. Both these will serve you well during your life.

June: if I had such a son I would be so proud. And you deserve praise for raising such a fine young man.

I hope you both get the support and kudoes you deserve now and in the future

January 21st, 2011 | LINK

I hate to say it, but bullying has been around for ages and will continue to stay here. I’ve been working on a new project, speaking with parents who’s children have been affected by bullying. You’d be amazed at how often times schools do nothing. Send a note home to the parent and that’s the end of it. Some stories dive further where police were involved. Many times nothing is done because as the police have said “This is merely children being children.” This is not children being children this is BULLYING.

Rachel H
January 22nd, 2011 | LINK

Thank you, Alex, for your courage, not only in thinking about these things and changing your attitude, but in publicly taking a stand.

Julie – I can only echo Michael’s sentiments. You have raised a fine young man.

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