Nigel Hardy, 13, was a gifted athlete who had no fear. His father took off the training wheels on his bicycle when he was two years old, and he was able to balance and ride around without falling. For years he played on football, baseball, and basketball teams before he moved from Avon, Ind., to Palmdale, Calif., last Thanksgiving.
On the West Coast, he joined the Antelope Valley Dynasty All-Stars, a competitive extracurricular cheerleading club. As a first-time cheerleader, he learned in a week what other athletes take months to perfect. His new middle school in Palmdale didn't offer football, but he hoped to play the sport again when he entered high school. Nigel looked forward to traveling with the cheerleading team to Las Vegas, Anaheim, and Palm Springs for competitions.
"It seemed the gym was a release or escape for him," Nigel's father, James Hardy, told msnbc.
Nigel also enjoyed playing his guitar and listening to music with his older sister; when he lived with her in Indiana, he often asked for advice about dealing with the girls at his middle school.
Nigel was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 15 at a restaurant in Rosamond, Calif., after being reported missing and possibly armed with a gun.