It’s been one year since the death of a Texas boy who was bullied and encouraged to kill himself by an Allen Park teen.
The case was recently brought to a conclusion after the Michigan teen flew to Montgomery County, located north of Houston, to face the consequences of his actions.
In January of 2023 deputies and detectives with the Montgomery County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office responded to a residence located in a subdivision in reference to a suicide with firearm call, in which a child was identified as the victim.
During the investigation, detectives observed that the child was wearing a gaming headset and appeared to be online at or around the time of his death.
During a lengthy investigation that involved multiple search warrants, legal processes and interviews with members of an online gaming community in several states across the country, a juvenile male suspect from Allen Park was identified.
Upon conclusion of the investigation, the case was presented to the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office.
On Dec 7, the juvenile suspect appeared in court and pleaded guilty to a felony charge of aiding suicide and a misdemeanour charge of harassment causing death.
Due to the ages of the involved parties, authorities did not release their names.
The Montgomery County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office issued a statement saying that it takes investigations regarding cyberbullying seriously and will continue to investigate these cases to the fullest extent.
“We would like to thank the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office and the Allen Park Police Department for their assistance during this investigation,” the Constable’s Office said.
Constable Ryan Gable praised the efforts of Sgt. Steven Terrell, stating that his thorough investigation yielded conversation and bullying, resulting in a charge of a minor suspect residing in Michigan.
“Our efforts, working with the Allen Park Police Department in Michigan and partnership with the County Attorney’s office resulted in this specific offense, hopefully sending a clear message to our youth that we do not condone any aspect of bullying or harassment and we will do our very best to charge these offenders every time,” Gable said. “I am extremely proud of our department’s work and the work of the county attorney’s office in holding this minor suspect accountable.”
Lt. Paul Schryer, who serves as the public information officer with the Allen Park Police Department, said local officers had limited involvement in this case.
“We were asked to make contact with the family,” Schryer said. “They immediately went to Texas. The parents weren’t aware of what took place.”
According to Lt. Ken Washington, public information and community engagement officer in Constable Ryan Gable’s Precinct 3 Office, this was only the third time that charges such as these had been sought and prosecuted in the state of Texas.
He said one of the reasons cases like this are so rare is, at least in part, because Internet charges involving children are a relatively new phenomenon.
The first iPhone was released in 2007 and the Android operating system followed in 2008, although it took a few years for smart phones to surge in popularity. In the same way, online games have only recently become widely popular and in some ways laws regulating their misuse are playing catch-up.
But if an offence takes place during online gaming, such as in this case, or if by text message or social media, Washington said it all boils down to cyberbullying and it needs to be stopped.
He said that kids often don’t understand the ramifications of their actions and they need to realize that what they say to others does matter.
As for the Allen Park teen who pleaded guilty to the charges he faced, he was given three years probation.
Although Washington was not involved in the sentencing portion of this case and couldn’t speak to specifics, he said minors who plead guilty to cases such as these generally are under house arrest until they turn 18, at which point the probationary period begins. – The News Herald, Southgate, Mich./Tribune News Service
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