Channing Smith suicide: Coffee County High School, Tennessee teen kills self after messages revealing his sexuality released on the web. Prosecutors decide whether to bring charges forward.
A Tennessee teenage boy killed himself after his classmates outed him on social media as bisexual, his family claim.
Channing Smith, a 16-year-old student at Coffee County High School in Manchester, shot himself to death Sunday week ago, Sept. 22. The teen’s suicide death came the same day two other teens allegedly revealed explicit personal messages of Smith confiding his sexuality to another friend on Instagram and Snapchat.
Smith’s older brother told WZTV he had no idea why his brother would kill himself and started reaching out to his friends, who said the teen was bisexual and that his messages had been leaked by the ‘friend’ he had confided to as well as by a female classmate.
‘They did it to just completely humiliate and embarrass my brother,’ Joshua Smith, 38, said.
‘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,’ the brother added.
‘Being gay shouldn’t be a death sentence.’
The brother said Smith called the female classmate who allegedly posted the screenshots to tell her he was going to kill himself — and claims the girl didn’t tell anyone about it. Smith took his own life within hours of the bullying incident.
‘I really hate how I can’t trust anyone because those I did were so fake. Bye,’ Channing posted Channing on Instagram literally hours before killing himself.
A fellow junior at Coffee County HS, Keylee Duty told Buzzfeed News that Channing even prior to the cyberbullying, had been called names while saying, ‘no one liked him’ because he sometimes ‘talked in a girly voice and walked with sass.’
At the time of his suicide death, Channing had been dating fellow junior girl, Hailey Meister.
But would local prosecutors seek to go after the teens who sought to humiliate Channing by sharing explicit messages on social media?
‘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,’ Channing’s brother told WZTV.
Added Joshua, ‘He should never have died over that. Nobody should.’
Posted Joshua on Facebook, according to Manchester Times: ‘I don’t have 100% of the facts but I do know that some kids were going to use Snapchat to expose my little brother on some sort of embarrassing information that they had collected through screenshots of text messages.’ He also wrote that ‘being gay shouldn’t be a death sentence.’
@billyraycyrus performing Amazing Grace at the memorial for Channing Smith in Manchester. Smith took his own life last Sunday as a result of cyber bullying. Full story tonight on @FOXNashville at 9. pic.twitter.com/klvYHeGNff
— AJ Abell (Fox17) (@aj_abell) September 29, 2019
Will prosecutors seek cyberbullying charges leading to death?
The office of Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott has responded it will take at least 30 days to make a decision whether to bring charges. It remains unclear what charges, if any, the prosecution would seek to bring forward.
In a statement to WTFV, Northcott said his office ‘has encouraged, cooperated in and supported the investigation into the events leading to this death’ and any reports that say he’s ‘failed or refuse to act is inaccurate.’
‘Ethically, I am prohibited from commenting on an open investigation or prosecution. However, procedurally, no charging decisions have been made by my office nor has the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department asked for a decision since the investigation has not been completed,’ Northcott added.
Hundreds attended a vigil for Smith on Thursday in Manchester, where they mourned the loss of the 16-year-old.
Told Smith’s mother, Crys Smith during the gathering, ‘Just because you think it’s cute or funny to make somebody embarrassed or humiliate them, think again. Because if somebody would’ve realized that, my son would not be dead.’
I actually felt dizzy when I read this. In this day and age this is still happening 😢. A 16 year old takes his own life because he was outed and targeted by homophobic kids of the same age. Where did they learn that hate? Such a shame #ChanningSmith https://t.co/1DXGWcsrGA
— Rory Cowan (@1rorycowan) September 29, 2019
@natalie_allison maybe you need to look into why Craig Northcutt, the Coffee County DA is refusing to procecute the two teens that forced my sons best friend Channing Smith to take his own life because they were cyberbullying him because he was coming out as gay.
— Gerald Howland (@GeraldHowland2) September 26, 2019