Hunter Hausman and his brother Landen used to wind through neighborhoods together on late-night car rides, their music interspersed with conversation. The two usually ended up at nearby Glen Echo Park in Bethesda. They’d jump a fence after hours and settle on a playground where they’d continue sharing details about their lives.
Hausman still drives to the park and hops the fence before lying down in the same spot he and Landen would. He still talks to his brother.
But he’s alone. Landen died in January 2022 after overdosing on a counterfeit Percocet pill laced with fentanyl.
“I still think that he listens,” Hausman said.
Hausman, a senior basketball player at Whitman, was named a finalist for the Naismith High School Courage Award, which recognizes a player who “has demonstrated courage in their approach to their team, school, and community.” The winners will be announced within the next week.
He has tried to raise awareness of the dangers to fentanyl, and he has been a sounding board for others who witness or experience drug abuse.
The morning after Landen’s death, Hausman and his father, Marc, cleaned up his room. They found a small blue pill with a 30 carved into it tucked into an AirPods case. The pill, along with Landen’s phone, became key parts of a criminal case.
In April 2022 a man was charged with distribution of fentanyl resulting in the death of a minor, per a press release from the Montgomery County Police Department. Hausman testified in the case in the fall.
“I’ll tell you this much: It’s very lonely when you get up there on that stage,” he said. “Everybody looks at you, all eyes are on you. You’re being sort of pointed out to by the judge to just tell the truth and nothing but the truth. … It’s hard. It’s difficult.”
Hausman found some relief, he said, in that he helped to find justice. He blames himself at times, saying that while he tried to be the best older brother possible, he could’ve tried understanding Landen better.
The two didn’t always have the easiest relationship. Landen, who died at 16, struggled with depression and substance abuse.
“Landen was a very difficult, problematic kid,” his father said. “This was not like happy-go-lucky kid who dies from a drug overdose. … It was a very, very, very stressful environment at home.”
Landen once had a reaction to a marijuana edible that made him potentially physically violent, Marc said. Fearing for their safety, the family locked themselves in a room.
But Hausman and Landen maintained a connection. After a crisis incident, the family moved Landen to a pediatric unit while they searched for rehab beds. As he lay in the bed, Landen refused to see anyone but his big brother, Marc said.
Hausman aided his brother when possible, including by defusing run-ins with law enforcement.
He tried helping one more time after his youngest brother, Bryce, found Landen collapsed in the bathroom after overdosing. Hausman locked Bryce in his room and performed CPR on Landen until paramedics showed up. It was too late.
“He’d been laying dead on his floor in his [bathroom] for a couple of hours,” Marc said.
When the two cleaned out Landen’s room, they also found numerous basketball jerseys. Landen played on Whitman’s junior varsity team while Hausman, who was in a vocational program, played varsity at Rockville.
Hausman switched back to Whitman for his final year in high school. The move was partially motivated by a shorter drive to school but it also brought him closer to Landen.
“I feel like he would have wanted me to be there with him,” Hausman said. “I’d be playing with him, me and him would be teammates this year on the basketball team.”
He had to adjust to being a role player, but being at Whitman helped him grieve.
On Jan. 20, Whitman held a community night ahead of its overtime win against Poolesville, just over a year after Landen’s death. It had a minute of silence pregame and a raffle to raise money for the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.
In the Vikings’ season-ending loss to Wootton on Tuesday in the 4A region semifinals, Hausman made two-three pointers. He plans to play lacrosse for Whitman and AAU basketball in the spring.
Hausman receives direct message on social media from others who need guidance, including a high school student concerned about his brother’s heavy drug use.
“He’s scared that he one day will wake up and his brother won’t be there, and I know what that feels like,” Hausman said.
Hausman offered to talk to the brother and told him about the potential ramifications of his actions. He knows the conversation won’t necessarily cause the brother to stop using, but he did what he felt he could.
“I just sort of put him in my shoes on what I’ve seen. I don’t want his brother having to see that from him.” Hausman said. “ … I just wanted people to realize that I am a source that can be here to listen and do my best to help.”