By IVAN THOMAS-HICKS
Former University of Houston track star Cameron Burrell’s death has been ruled as suicide, PEOPLE confirms.
The Nike athlete suffered a fatal gunshot wound on Monday, according to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. He was 26.
“We may never know why Cameron made such a decision. We encourage anyone who may be struggling in their lives to reach out for help,” Cameron’s father, Olympic track and field gold medalist Leroy Burrell, said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press on Friday.
Leroy added, “You are not alone, and you are surrounded by more people who love and care for you than you may think in a dark moment.”
Cameron’s father, who is also the head coach of the University of Houston’s track and field program, released a statement via the athletic department on Tuesday announcing his death.
“My family is extremely saddened with the loss of our son, Cameron, last night. We are going through profound sorrow and ask that all of our friends, extended University of Houston family and the track and field community in the U.S. and abroad allow us to gather with our closest family and friends,” Leroy said, adding, “We are profoundly grief-stricken, and thank everyone for the outpouring of prayers and support.”
Cameron followed in the footsteps of his relatives, one of America’s most successful track and field families. His father, mother Michelle Finn-Burrell and aunt Dawn Burrell are all former Olympians. Cameron’s godfather is the legendary nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis.
Dawn shared a tribute to Cameron on Tuesday, prefacing that she usually doesn’t publicly speak about her life, but in this case, it “is too heavy to carry alone.”
“I have no children. My nieces and nephews are it. I love them like they are mine. I guess this post serves as a cry for help right now because for the first time, my battle is too much to bare. Right now, my heart is broken into a million pieces,” the Top Chef alum wrote.
Dawn added, “He was so amazing and so troubled. I did not know how much so.”
“I am saying all this to say- Please check on your strong family members that you view as kings. They might be struggling internally more than you realize,” she said.
Cameron was a sprinter at the University of Houston from 2013 to 2018. In 2018, he won the NCAA individual national championship in the 100m — a feat accomplished by his father 28 years earlier. The same season he also ran the anchor leg of the 4x100m relay team, helping the Cougars defend their NCAA national championship in that event.
“Cameron grew up around the Houston Athletics Department, worked hard and developed himself into one of our greatest Track and Field stars,” Chris Pezman, University of Houston Vice President of Athletics wrote in a statement released earlier this week. “To lose him so suddenly is tragic. We ask all University of Houston and track and field fans to keep Coach Burrell and his family in their thoughts and prayers.”
Cameron is survived by his father, mother, and brothers, Joshua and Jaden.