Nigel Shelby, 15, took his own life last Thursday after several years of being bullied at school for being gay and bouts of depression. He came out to his mom two years ago. After coming out, he had faced intense abuse at Alabama’s Huntsville High School from his peers.
In response, a local sheriff’s deputy, identified by NBC News as Madison County Deputy Jeff Graves, left his dismissive and cruel comments on a WZDX-TV Facebook post about Nigel’s death on Sunday night. Graves started out by mocking Shelby’s suicide.
“Liberty Guns Bible Trump BBQ,” the deputy wrote, according to an image obtained by WAFF. “That’s my kind of LGBTQ.”
“I’m seriously offended that there is such a thing as this movement. Society cannot and should not except this behavior. I have a right to be offended and will always be offended by this fake movement which requires no special attention but by people with an altered ego and fake agenda.”
In the first part of his comment, Graves referenced a Kentucky barbecue food truck that stirred controversy last week when it advertised merchandise featuring the same abbreviation mocking the meaning of LGBTQ.
According to the Washington Post, Graves is currently on administrative leave while an internal audit is conducted and Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner condemned Graves’ comments.
“Bullying of any group or person in or outside of schools is unacceptable, and I welcome any and all efforts to raise awareness to bullying and bring bullying to a stop,” Turner said in a statement. “The Sheriff’s Office has assigned these allegations to be audited with the information that has been provided to us. The Sheriff’s Office holds all its employees to high standard [sic], and the public can be assured that a thorough and complete audit will be conducted and appropriate action will be taken.”
Shelby’s mother, Camika Shelby, said that her son was “the sweetest child” that one day wanted to be a performer.
“Coming out at such a young age, it can be hard. You don’t know if you are going to be accepted. He didn’t know if I was going to accept him,” Camika told WAFF. “And when you have a kid who is already depressed and going through a lot emotionally, for you to call him names that you shouldn’t call him or say stuff to them, it sometimes has a worse effect than it would on a child who is not struggling with depression.”
Shelby’s suicide is just one case of a tragic trend of suicide rates among young African Americans increasing while dropping for white peers. Researchers in the Journal of Adolescent Health reported last February that LGBTQ teens are also more likely to die by suicide than heterosexuals of the same age, NBC News reported.
But Camika wants her son’s memory to rise above the deputy’s mocking comments and the abuse he faced at school.
“I don’t want him to be remembered as a kid who was bullied for being gay and who took his own life,” she said. “He was so much more than that. He was sunshine. He was just a great spirit to have around and it just breaks my heart because I feel like he had so much more love to give.”