Community members gathered Thursday (Sept. 26) to remember Channing Smith, Coffee County Central High School student, who took his life. Family members say the reason was cyber bullying.
Channing’s family, friends, coworkers and classmates shared stories, lit candles and sang songs at the vigil held at Fred Deadman Park in Manchester.
About 200 locals gathered to mourn together and support Channing’s family.
“It’s nothing short of amazing to see all his friends here,” said Joshua Smith, Channing’s brother. “These are young kids that rallied together for a cause – to take action and make something happen, so Channing wouldn’t be forgotten. And that’s the amazing part about this community.”
Channing was “the sweetest, nicest kid ever,” Smith said.
“He was always aiming to build other people up and to be a friend. I have heard a crazy amount of stories from his friends over the last three days of how kind he was, how he always tried to be somebody’s friend.”
Channing had just started working, added Smith.
“He recently got a job at Burger King,” Smith said. “His friends from Burger King are here today in their work outfits. He was able to make his own money. He recently got his own motorcycle. Music was his passion. He loved to play in the band with his friends.”
Olivia Allmon, Channing’s friend, said he “was always loving and caring and he was always here for someone when they needed him.”
Another of Channing’s friends, Vitrais Rosales, added that “he was always a kind spirit and very friendly to the other kids.”
Vitrais held a poster with the words: “Your song ended, but your melody lingers on.”
Smith has raised many questions regarding the circumstances of Channing’s death. Seeking more information, Smith wants to raise suicide awareness, hoping to help prevent future tragedies.
Local agencies have not been very helpful, said Smith.
“The DA’s office, the local police department, the investigators at the sheriff’s department and even his school were going to take the minimal amount, zero action, in regards to this case,” Smith said. “They had every intention to setting this on the shelf, hoping that it went away.
“We have had to contact them every step of the way to try to get some action and they didn’t bother until today (Sept. 26), until all the media…They were going to more or less wrap the investigation up after a day or two of interviewing a couple of people…You would think that the school will be a little more involved and try to console the kids that are hurting and distraught and also provide some prevention to keep this from happening again.”
With this case gaining national attention, Smith hopes local authorities will take it more seriously.
There is an ongoing investigation currently, according to officials with the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department.
The Times reached out to Director of Coffee County Schools Dr. Charles Lawson about this case.
“In regards to this particular incident, law enforcement conducted an investigation to determine actions taken by the youths involved,” Lawson said. “In the course of the investigation, there was not any indication that the actions in question occurred on school grounds or in the course of school activities. The school district is limited in enforcing behaviors conducted at these times.”