Channing Smith, 16, killed himself after one of his classmates posted screenshots of private sexually explicit messages shared between the deceased and another boy, claims his brother Joshua.
The devastated family of a teenager who took his own life after being outed as gay on social media by one of his classmates wants justice for the ones responsible for his death. According to a report by Daily Mail, Channing Smith, 16, shot himself in his home situated in Manchester, Tennessee, after having a dispute with a friend who posted screenshots of sexually explicit messages shared between the deceased and another boy, claims the family. "I'm not gay, but I did love my brother and that did not matter to me, not one ounce," said Channing's brother, Joshua, 38, while speaking to Insider. "He should never have died over that. Nobody should."
Recalling the events of the heartbreaking day, Joshua explained how his brother had just returned from his job at a Burger King on Sunday before wishing their father goodnight and retiring to his room around 10 p.m. This is the time, Joshua believes, that his brother's private Facebook messages were shared by his classmate on her public Instagram and Snapchat stories. After learning about this exposure, Channing posted a story on Instagram around 11 p.m. which read: I really hate how I can't trust anyone because those I did were so fake. Bye.
Around 4 a.m. next morning, the high school junior's father decided to check on him after noticing that his teen son's bedroom light was still on. He was shocked to find the lifeless body of his beloved son, who was said to have committed suicide between 1 and 3 a.m. that morning. Speaking to the Insider, Joshua revealed that seeking legal action for those responsible for his brother's suicide has not been quite easy. The sibling claims that an investigator with the Coffee County said that the District Attorney, Craig Northcott, has resolved not to pursue any legal charges against the ones involved in this case.
"We don't want them to be brought upon murder charges or anything," said Joshua who wants the teenagers responsible to face criminal charge "of some sort." In addition to that, he said, "They were kids and I know they didn't think through to the end result, that Channing would end up dead. But he did. And, you know, because someone outed him for being gay. I guess his wishes were that he could have done that in his own time." According to reports, the investigator on the cases kept making excuses for not continuing the investigation.
Initially, the investigator told Joshua that they weren't sure if the messages between Channing and the other boy were even posted on social media. The 38-year-old responded saying that he had already searched for that information and spoken to his brother's friend and girlfriend who told him that Channing had been questioning his sexuality and secretly been in a relationship with a boy for almost a year. According to Joshua, the investigator overlooking Channings's case suggested that Northcott doesn't want "to touch it." Northcott's tenure as the county's district attorney general has been ridden with controversies relating to the LGBTQIAP+ community.
Describing Northcott as "the poster child for gay hate," Joshua said, "I can't help but think they're trying to do just enough to pacify us." Furthermore, he said, "I'm giving [Northcott] a chance to tell me now, because if he doesn't, I'm getting ready to start the biggest social media s--- storm this town has ever seen, and I'm filing lawsuits on anyone and everyone that has touched this.." In his statement to BuzzFeed News, Northcott said, "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."
Meanwhile, the Smith family is doing their best to spread awareness of cyberbullying by sharing Channing's story. This effort was supported by several of Channing's classmates who wore a #JusticeForChanning printed T-shirt to Coffee County Central High School. However, Joshua revealed that it has not been easy to fight for his brother in Manchester as the place was not a safe environment for LGBTQIAP+ kids. Even Channing's school did nothing after learning about the incident. Instead, they confiscated the supportive t-shirts worn by his classmates and called their parents to bring in a change of clothing.
Now, the family is now putting all their efforts to create legislation called "Channing's Law" in order to create consequences for cyberbullying minors who end up killing themselves due to humiliation. "I've had a hundred kids physically tell me they've attempted suicide at different points," said Joshua. "I had no idea kids dealt with, I mean there's a lot of troubled kids that have tried suicide. And they don't tell you until something like this happens." Speaking about his sibling who loved motorcycles and music, he said, "I want him to just be remembered for being the kindest, caring, loving kid. And I don't just say that because he's my brother." He added, "This was one of the sweetest guys that you would have ever met in your entire life."
I saw this and agree that it is terrible. It looks like the attorney I saw this and agree that it is terrible. It looks like the homophobic district attorney is just dismissing it as not worth his time. 😡— Love, Lane (@Lane8675) 28 September 2019