Parents: Yearbook cat photo teen commits suicide

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Saturday, February 21, 2015
Draven Rodriquez posed for a retro-style photo shoot with his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth.
Vincent Giordano/Trinacria Photography

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Draven Rodriguez -- the teen who won hearts around the world with his cat-loving, laser-filled yearbook photo -- has died at age 17. His parents told the Albany Times Union he committed suicide. Other sources also reported that he had taken his own life.

The teen's story went viral last September when he took a senior photo with his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, and submitted a retro-style final product that included dramatic far-off stares and lasers. Rodriguez was told he would not be allowed to use the quirky photo in the Schenectady High School yearbook.

As news outlets covered his story, the Internet rallied behind him. Thousands signed a petition to allow his photo to be used.

Though Rodriguez was still not allowed to use the photo, his yearbook saga ended with a happy compromise. His principal -- and her dog -- eventually posed with him and his cat in a similar photo to raise awareness for the ASPCA.

Rodriguez's loss will be felt around the country, his father, Jonathan Stewart, told the Union Times.

"He made friends wherever he went," Stewart said. "He had an empathy for the world and for other people that I think is rare in kids his age."

Along with cats, Rodriguez loved the English language, Stewart said. He called the teen a grammar Nazi and told a story about how a middle school teacher once asked him not to correct her when an observer came to visit the class.

Rodriguez last posted a selfie on his Instagram one week before his passing. Fans have been commenting on that and other photos of him to pay tribute.

The photographer who took the photo posted a somber message on Twitter, seemingly a tribute to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is survived by Stewart, his mother, an 11-year-old sister and his biological father. The Times Union reported that funeral arrangements had not yet been announced.