Hundreds of supporters gathered at a vigil in honor of a Tennessee teenager who committed suicide just hours after private and sexually graphic messages between him and another boy were shared on social media.
Channing Smith, a 16-year-old junior at Coffee County Central High School in Manchester, Tenn., shot and killed himself Sunday after he was outed by two teens, his brother Joshua Smith told Fox 17 Nashville.
Two schoolmates — the boy who received the messages and another girl — posted screenshots of the messages on Instagram and Snapchat.
“They did it to just completely humiliate and embarrass my brother,” said Smith.
“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,” he added.
On Thursday, hundreds of supporters gathered at Fred Deadman Park to show their support for the family, and to honor the life of the 16-year-old, according to local news station WTVF.
“What happened to him should never have happened,” Channing’s mom told a crowd of friends, family, students and community leaders.
“I’ll tell your right here and now. You guys need to be a little bit more aware about what you’re posting, how you’re posting it and why you’re posting it. Just because you think it’s cute, or funny to make someone embarrassed or humiliated … think again. Because if someone would have realized that,” she said, “my son would not be dead. And for the people responsible: I just hope you feel the same pain we do.”
Smith’s family is urging District Attorney Craig Northcott to file charges against the two who were responsible for his death.
Northcott, who earlier this year faced scrutiny for saying that LGBTQ people shouldn’t receive domestic violence protections, said he hasn’t decided if he’ll pursue criminal charges.
On Thursday he released a statement saying that he was “deeply saddened by the tragic loss of the young life of Channing Smith,” but said he couldn’t comment on on open investigation.
A second memorial service is scheduled for Sunday morning at the Rotary Amphitheater.
Country star Billy Ray Cyrus is expected to perform a couple of songs and to speak out against cyberbullying.
Cyrus is “absolutely devastated by this tragedy,” Channing Smith’s brother wrote on a Facebook post. “His mission is to put an END to this bullying once and for all,” he added.