Family Says Cyberbullying Led 18-Year-Old to Fatally Shoot Herself in Front of Them
Police are investigating whether cyberbullying played a role in the suicide of 18-year-old Brandy Vela, who shot herself in the chest at her Texas City, Texas, home on Tuesday, PEOPLE confirms.
Vela was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead upon arrival, the Texas City Police Department confirmed to PEOPLE in a written statement.
Vela’s sister, Jacqueline, 22, told Click 2 Houston that her family received an alarming text message from her that day that read, “I love you so much just remember that please and I’m so sorry for everything.”
Jacqueline told the news outlet that she tried everything she could to save her sisters life.
“I heard someone crying so I ran upstairs and I looked in her room and she’s against the wall and she has a gun pointed at her chest and she’s just crying and crying and I’m like, ‘Brandy please don’t, Brandy no,'” Jacqueline told the outlet.
Jacqueline added that moments later, “I was in my parents’ room and I just heard the shot and my dad just yelled, ‘Help me, help me, help me.'”
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On Wednesday night, their father, Raul Vela, told the Galveston County Daily News that his daughter suffered from cyberbullying, involving fake Facebook profiles and social media posts that advertised illicit activities using his daughter’s phone numbers.
He told the newspaper that she changed her number multiple times and reported the harassment to police multiple times. But nothing changed because the people behind it were anonymous.
“Maybe I was approaching it the wrong way,” he said. “They couldn’t do anything about it.”
Jacqueline 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 said.
Vela’s bedroom is now covered in Post-it notes, including two that read, “You will always own a piece of my heart,” and “You will never be forgotten,” the outlet reports.
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The Texas City Independent School District wrote in a statement obtained by PEOPLE that Vela “had a lot of friends and was thought of warmly by her peers and teachers.”
According to the statement, before Thanksgiving break, Vela brought to the school’s attention that she was getting harassing messages on her cell phone outside of school. School investigators found that the app being used to send the messages was untraceable.
The school encouraged her to change her phone number, but they’re not sure if she did so, the statement says.
“We have and will always cooperate with the police,” part of the statement reads. “If anyone knows anyone suspected of harassing Brandy, we need that information on that shared with the school and police. We take cyberbullying seriously and would penalize to the full extent of the law for any violations.”
Texas City Police Detectives are currently investigating the allegations of the cyberbullying.
A prayer vigil will be held in the parking lot of Texas City High School on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
In a letter to parents and guardians that was obtained by PEOPLE, principal Holly La Roe said, “We encourage you to be especially sensitive and prepared to offer support to your child during this time. Deaths like this impact different children in different ways.”