Student In Viral Laser Cat Yearbook Photo Reportedly Commits Suicide
Draven Rodriguez, the 17-year-old high school senior responsible for the now famous laser cat yearbook photo, passed away Thursday in his Schenectady, New York home.
The cause of death, according to multiple reports, was suicide.
Rodriguez was launched into the spotlight last September when a professional portrait of him and his cat, posed against a laser beam background, became an Internet sensation.
Originally published online as part of a petition to allow the portrait to be Rodriguez's official senior photo, the image quickly went viral. It inspired memes and spin-offs throughout the web.
Though his petition was originally denied, the school has since agreed to dedicate a full page to Rodriguez's portrait.
It will be coupled with a message about the importance of adopting animals through shelters and supporting rescue organizations.
“He wasn't trying to stir things up with it,” Rodriguez's stepfather, Jonathan Stewart, told the Times Union of the photo. “He honestly just wanted a silly photo because he had a great sense of humor.”
Rodriguez is remembered as a whip-smart student who deeply cared about others.
“He had an empathy for the world and for other people that I think is rare in kids his age,” Stewart remembered. “It was wonderful to see.”
In addition to his stepfather, Rodriguez is survived by his mother, Melissa Petersen-Stewart; an 11-year-old sister, Lily Stewart; as well has his biological father, Erik Rodriguez.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts or feelings, or at risk for self-harm, get help immediately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.