An 18-year-old teenager from Texas killed herself in front of her family after being relentlessly bullied online for her weight. Brandy Vela shot herself in the chest as her family begged her not to take her life.
Brandy's sister, Jackie, said that the young woman had always been bullied for her weight but it got particularly bad in April. "People would make up fake Facebook accounts and they would message her and she wouldn't respond and they would still come at her," Jackie told CNN.
"They would say really, really mean things like, 'Why are you still here?' They would call her fat and ugly. She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful; the only thing people could find to pick on her was her weight," she added.
Brandy's father, Raul Vela, told KHOU, that the bullying began over a year ago when someone used her picture online. "And continually posting nasty things about her," he said. "Set up an account saying she was actually soliciting sex." Harassing phone calls came next.
Brandy changed her phone number and reported the incidents to police, who told her they could not help her because the suspects used an app that was not "traceable". Jackie said police told her sister that they could not do anything until "something happened, like they fight".
"Sometimes she wouldn't sleep. She'd call me at night. She'd say 'Dad, I can't sleep. My phone keeps ringing," Raul said. According to KHOU, the fake social media pages would be taken down only to pop up again days later.
Jackie received an alarming text message from her sister on Tuesday (29 November) saying, "I love you so much, please remember that, and I'm sorry for everything." She alerted her parents and grandparents, who rushed to their Texas City, Texas home to find Brandy with a gun in her room.
"[W]e tried to persuade her to put the gun down but she was determined," her father said.
The teen was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead, CNN reported.
The communications director for the Texas City Independent School District, where Brandy was a high school senior, said the community is "devastated" and will release blue balloons in honour of Brandy on Friday (2 December).
Texas City Police will interview Brandy's family and investigate possible suspects.