Family mourning loss of 4-year-old after thrift store accident

A St. James, Minnesota family is mourning the loss of a four-year-old boy, who accidentally strangled himself while he was alone in the changing room at a thrift store.

Ryu Pena was alone with his grandmother on Saturday and playing just outside a dressing room at the AGAIN thrift store in Mankato as she tried on clothes. His grandmother, Julia Gonzalez, says he brought a small play stool into that dressing room.

“When I was trying on other pants I don't hear him and I call ‘Ryu?’ and he says ‘What grandma?’ or ‘Yes?’ and I said oh he is next [to me],” Julia said.

“He climbed under the dressing room door, unlocked it. When he responded to my mother, my mother was in the next room so she heard him but didn't know what he was doing,” Ryu’s mother, Denise Gonzalez, said.

When she later looked for Ryu, it seemed he was no longer in the dressing room. So, she started searching the rest of the store. Another customer found Ryu. His zip-up sweatshirt had somehow gotten entangled with a metal hook on the wall.

Mankato police say Ryu’s feet were suspended from the floor and he was unresponsive.

“I said ‘My Ryu, my Ryu.’  I tried to wake him up, but no he don't respond,” Julia said.

Staff attempted CPR before first responders arrived, but Ryu was pronounced dead at the hospital.

“He was doing what he loved. He was playing. He was a kid,” Denise said.

Police say this seems to be a freak accident, but because of his age they are required to carry out a full investigation.

Ryu’s family hopes he will be remembered for being a good to his big sister and new little brother, his love of preschool and dinosaurs along with his kindness and his bright smile.

“My baby was full of life. He was always enjoying everything, always such a playful baby,” Denise said.

The AGAIN thrift store is run by the Minnesota Action Valley Council, which is a nonprofit in this area. Fox 9 reached out to them, but they preferred not to comment on the situation.

Other relatives in Texas have started a GoFundMe page to help the family with funeral costs.