16-year-old Channing Smith, a junior at Coffee County Central High School, in Coffee County T.N., killed himself by gunfire this week, hours after being outed by friends on Snapchat via screen shots showing he liked another boy.
Fox17 reported that initially no one had any idea why Smith had committed suicide and it was only after his brother Joshua, started reaching out to Channing’s friends on Facebook, “that he found out Channing was either gay or bisexual and had messages with another young man. Joshua says that kid and another girl released those messages live on Instagram and Snapchat Sunday evening.”
A Coffee County high-schooler took his own life and the family says it's a result of cyberbullying. They say he was outed on social media by two other teens the same evening he shot himself. I'll have the details tonight on @FOXNashville at 9:00 pm. pic.twitter.com/rYeWufl0oG
— AJ Abell (Fox17) (@aj_abell) September 26, 2019
“They did it to just completely humiliate and embarrass my brother,” [Joshua] 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 Smith says he’s going to make it his mission to be the voice for people who either can’t or won’t fight for themselves.
He also has a 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.
News Channel 5 reports that, “Friends and family gathered at a vigil to remember a Coffee County teenager who took his own life over the weekend.”
Smith’s family is urging District Attorney Craig Northcott to file charges against the teens involved in the cyber bullying.
Northcott released the following statement in response to Smith’s death:
“I, like the rest of the community, am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of the young life of Channing Smith. I express my heartfelt condolences to his family. My office has encouraged, cooperated in and supported the investigation into the events leading to this death. 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. When all relevant facts are available, my office will advise the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department on what charges, if any, we believe are appropriate to help guide it in that decision. Any report that my office has failed or refused to act is inaccurate and I wanted to clarify this for the sake of the Smith family as they do not need the added burden to the already incomprehensible pain that they are experiencing. I would ask for the everyone to extend their prayers for the family and to respect their privacy as this process moves forward.”
Northcott has faced scrutiny in the past for saying that gay people aren’t entitled to domestic violence protections.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.