It’s been nearly three months since 16-year-old Channing Smith, a junior at Coffee County Central High School, in Coffee County T.N., killed himself by gunfire, hours after being outed by friends on Snapchat via screen shots showing he liked another boy.
Above: Channing Smith via Facebook
Now, the Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott says he isn’t pursuing criminal charges.
According to The Tennessean, “”Upon the completion of the full investigation into the circumstances of Channing Smith’s death by the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department and this office and after a review of the criminal statutes of this state, I have determined that there is not probable cause to believe that any crimes have been committed in this tragic situation,” DA Craig Northcott said. “Thus no criminal charges or juvenile petitions will be sought by this office. The family remains in my prayers, and I hope that all of Channing’s friends and family can find peace in this difficult time.”
The Advocate’s Trudy Ring reports: “Members of Smith’s family wanted Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott to investigate and prosecute those who shared the messages, but they had doubts because of Northcott’s record of anti-LGBTQ stances. In 2018 he had told a group of ministers that he didn’t recognize what he called “homosexual marriage” and that he would not prosecute county clerks who declined to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He also said he wouldn’t bring domestic violence charges in cases involving same-sex couples, although he would bring a lesser charge of simple assault.”
Smith’s family members are blaming the law rather than Northcott personally.
“Supposedly there’s not laws in place that affect minors, and harassment and bullying have to show a pattern,” Channing’s brother Joshua Smith told The Tennessean. “Hopefully we can get more modern laws in place. My main concern is it’s going to send a mixed message to these kids that they can do what they want and there’s not repercussions.”
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.