Celebration of life held for Coffee County teen who took his life after being outed
MANCHESTER, Tenn. -- On Sunday, country star Billy Ray Cyrus joined the cause to put an end to bullying after a Coffee County Central High School junior shot and killed himself because of what the family says was cyber bullying.
Billy Ray Cyrus heard about what happened and said he was devastated, so he came to Manchester to play one of Channing Smith’s favorite songs: "Amazing Grace."
Channing Smith’s brother, Joshua, says Channing had previously exchanged explicit messages with another young man, and last Sunday, some teens released those screenshots on social media.
“They were, more or less, outing my brother for being gay, so he was absolutely humiliated,” Joshua said.
Smith shot himself later that night.
His mom says he did everything in his power to help others.
“Channing was one of those kids who loved with all his heart, but he didn't really realize how many people loved him,” his mother Crys Smith says.
“You've never met just a more kind soul, a kid with a heart in him that was the size of Texas,” his brother says.
“On numerous occasions he would come up and say, 'mom, I’m just so tired,' and I’m like, 'son, why are you not sleeping?' [he’d say] 'well, I had a friend who needed to talk last night, so I stayed up all night talking to him,'’ his mother recalls.
It is a sentiment his friends echoed as well.
“The times I talked to him, he would help me with things because not everybody's strong; he was strong for a lot of people,” says friend Faith Honea.
Now, the family hopes to carry that strength through a hashtag, #JusticeForChanning, hoping to prevent this from happening to anyone ever again.
The community is calling for the district attorney and the high school to receive sensitivity training to help put an end to any kind of intolerance. There will be a planning meeting on Monday, at 6:30 p.m. at the Rotary Amphitheater in Manchester.