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(photo by Ray Solano)

SAMOHI — Friends of Santa Monica High School freshman Matthew Mezza on Saturday were struggling to understand what drove the 14 year old, who played baseball at Samohi and was known as a bright student and a bit of a jokester, to jump to his death from an upper floor of the Sheraton Delfina hotel on Friday afternoon.

The suicide was all the more difficult to comprehend for the events that preceded it.

Mezza had attended baseball practice on Friday afternoon but abruptly fled, according to Tim Cuneo, the Superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

“The student ran from practice across the street and entered the hotel and jumped from the hotel to his death. That’s all I know,” Cuneo said.

Several witnesses said Mezza had yelled that he was going to jump off a building as he left practice, causing startled teammates to give chase. They lost sight of Mezza, only to see his body fall to the pavement next to Pico Boulevard.

The Santa Monica Police Department said Mezza had jumped from the hotel’s ballroom on the 10th floor. Sgt. Jay Trisler, a department spokesman, declined further comment, citing an ongoing investigation. According to school district officials, the jump happened at about 5 p.m. Mezza was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead by 11 p.m. Friday.

On Saturday morning, Cuneo said about 125 students and parents attended a counseling session put on by the school district at Samohi. A handful of Mezza’s friends set up a memorial on the sidewalk across Pico Boulevard from the high school, in the shadow of the Sheraton Delfina.

Many of them had attended John Adams Middle School with Mezza and remembered him as someone who was fun to be around, always seemed to be smiling and loved the TV show “Family Guy.”

“What I can tell you is that he was a really happy boy,” said Delores Flamenco, a parent whose two children knew Mezza.

Samohi freshman Stevie Lamb said she and her friends hadn’t noticed anything strange about Mezza’s behavior in recent weeks.

“I saw him the day it happened and he seemed fine,” she said.

School officials also said there had been no warning signs.

“We haven’t seen anything at all that would have given us any clues,” Cuneo said, adding that “there will be some time for reflection” later on.

The school district said counselors will be available to talk with students and faculty about the suicide when school resumes on Tuesday. The district is also planning a Wednesday evening meeting with Samohi’s PTSA for parents to discuss the incident. Cuneo said the district would also post information about coping with the suicide on its website.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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