SLO suicide victim had promising diving career

Brian Lawler had been on Junior Olympics Team in his teens; family says he had mental illness

jlamb@thetribunenews.comJuly 19, 2013 

A man jumped off the top of this parking structure at Palm and Morro streets in downtown San Luis Obispo on Thursday.

JULIA HICKEY — jhickey@thetribunenews.com

The 26-year-old man who died after jumping from a parking structure in downtown San Luis Obispo on Thursday was a gifted high-diver who once had Olympic hopes, but he also suffered from a debilitating mental illness, family members said.

Brian Joseph Lawler of San Luis Obispo competed in the FINA World Junior Diving Championships when he was 15 and was a member of the U.S. Junior Olympics Team, according to his mother, Linda Lawler.

“Brian was a kind, gentle and creative young man. Unfortunately, he also suffered from a debilitating mental illness with deep depression and substance abuse problems. Despite years of medical treatment and therapy, his illness was never fully controlled,” Linda Lawler told The Tribune.

His uncle, Michael Lawler, said he ate lunch with his nephew Thursday at the Anderson Hotel and Brian “seemed to be confused a little bit,” he said.

As a teen, he competed in springboard diving, training 2½ hours a day five days a week at Laguna Hills High School in Mission Viejo. He moved there as a freshman specifically to train with the school’s diving team, according to a 2002 Tribune article.

“He was a very accomplished diver,” said his father, Jim Lawler.

He was a member of the Boston University and UC Berkeley diving teams, Linda Lawler said.

He was a business major at Boston University and transferred to UC Berkeley to study art and design.

Brian’s survivors also include sisters Michelle and Jenna.

A memorial is planned for Aug. 3. The family has asked that attendees donate to the National Alliance on Mental Illness in lieu of flowers.

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