"He always wanted a hug, and every time he'd say 'hugs make everything better,'" said the 12-year-old's uncle, Ron Eastman. "I'm sure he's in heaven right now, hugging on Jesus."
Tre'Juan, who everyone called Trey, took his own life Tuesday night in his west Anniston home.
Several of Trey's family members said Thursday the sixth-grader had faced bullies at Anniston Middle School for more than a year. They say that's why he committed suicide.
Johnny Figures, Trey's father, said kids at school and in their neighborhood had been trying to force Trey to join a gang.
"They'd jump on him, take his lunch money, threaten him," he said through tears. "It got to the point he didn't want to get on the bus and he'd miss it on purpose."
Figures said his son came to him after school on Monday and told him "'Daddy, they're still messing with me.'"
It must've gotten worse on Tuesday, he said. But Trey didn't come to him that afternoon.
"I wish he had of," Johnny Figures said.
Trey's death is senseless, said his aunt, Virginia Eastman.
"We're not only sad, we're frustrated because this didn't have to happen," she said. "Our multiple efforts to talk to school leaders didn't result in anything."
Trey's family said the school must take action so other students dealing with bullies get some help.
Anniston Schools Superintendent Joan Frazier said officials are investigating what may have led to Trey's death. As for whether teachers and administrators helped Trey before his suicide, she said they followed procedures.
"At this point in time, we are heavily into the investigative mode, trying to look into every tidbit of information and trying to ascertain if there was anything that happened Monday or Tuesday," she said.
Frazier said disciplinary problems are typically handled in the classroom. She said counseling is available both in school and then out of school, if needed.
Trey had received support in the past, Frazier said.
"No one saw this coming," she said. "This is one reason why we try to really overemphasize how important it is to be kind to one another, not to taunt, tease or be cruel."
Frazier said the school system also is investigating gang activity at Anniston Middle School. She said if gangs are in the school, officials didn't know about it.
Extra counselors are at the middle school this week, Frazier said, to help Trey's classmates who are struggling with his death.
Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center, said teachers must be vigilant in making sure students aren't bullying each other.
"It starts with little stuff, like cursing, yelling, name-calling, hard looks," he said. "When it comes to bullying, yeah, you do want to sweat the small stuff."
Harry Malone, pastor of Sweet Rock Full Gospel Baptist Church, also runs a convenience store on Clydesdale Avenue. He said the west Anniston community is in an uproar about Trey's death.
"Everyone I've seen is horrified by it, and they're saying the same thing I've said — why didn't somebody do something," he said.
Malone said he wants to start a mentoring program at the middle school with other pastors so children have someone to talk to.
If Trey had been able to talk about things on Tuesday, Veronica McGee said, she might not be burying her child. "The last thing he said to me was, 'Mommy, I love you,'" she said. "I said, 'I love you, too, baby.'"
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