The family of a 16-year-old student who took his own life earlier this week says the teen had been outed by online bullies immediately before killing himself, reports FOX17.
Channing Smith of Manchester, Tennessee fatally shot himself Sunday night after two Coffee County Central High School classmates posted a screenshot of explicit text messages between Smith and another boy on Instagram and Snapchat, his family says.
Family members say he outed by a female classmate following a disagreement between the two. The student reportedly retaliated against him by posting screenshots of the explicit texts.
“That was my only brother and I loved him,” said Channing’s brother, Joshua Smith.
Joshua, says he got a call from his dad early Monday morning.
“He was very upset, very shaken, and he said Channing has shot and killed himself,” Smith said.
“They did it to just completely humiliate and embarrass my brother,” Smith says. “Being in a small, rural town in the middle of Tennessee, you can imagine being the laughing stock and having to go to school Monday morning. He couldn’t face the humiliation that was waiting on him when he got to school on Monday, so he shot and killed himself.”
Joshua says his brother called the female classmate who posted the explicit message online and told her he was going to kill himself, but she did not tell anyone.
“I was told by the lead investigator in Coffee County that he was pushing to have the kids charged criminally and the District Attorney’s office has decided that they did not want to pursue it,” Joshua said.
FOX 17 reports:
District Attorney Craig Northcott has come under fire this year for saying he doesn’t recognize gay marriage and won’t prosecute same-sex domestic violence cases.
However, on Wednesday evening, Northcott told Smith it would take at least 30 days to decide whether he will press charges. Mr. Northcott declined a comment to FOX 17 News.
Joshua Smith had this message for parents: “No matter what, make sure your kids know that they’re the number one priority in your life and that nothing, no choice, nothing that they could do could ever separate them from your love, This way there’s not as much shame and guilt on anything going on in the kid’s life that they would hesitate to come talk to you about.”
He also wants kids to know that suicide is never the answer; that, no matter how bad things may seem, there is always an alternative to taking your own life. He knows nothing will ever bring his brother back, but he wants those two kids to face charges to show other kids that actions always carry consequences.
Channing’s mother, Crystal Smith told news station WKRN that “posting one little picture can destroy somebody’s life.”
“I can’t describe the pain,” she said. “You can’t understand it. How somebody could be that mean to somebody just for the fun of it? It doesn’t make any sense.”