Brandy Vela, an 18-year-old high school senior from Texas City, shot herself in front of her parents and grandparents this week after she was relentlessly bullied online. The culprits stayed anonymous by using encrypted apps.
According to reports, Vela’s family pleaded with her to put the gun down after they found her pinned up against the wall of her bedroom. Vela had a gun up to her chest and eventually pulled the trigger in front of her parents and grandparents while her sister hid in another room.
Jacqueline Vela, Brandy’s 22-year-old sister, told Click 2 Houston that Brandy was tired of being ridiculed by bullies online who made fun of her weight in anonymous messages. There were also fake profiles made about the student on dating websites, with her phone number listed because she would “give herself for sex for free.” The family said they reported the bullying to police several times before Brandy’s death, but nothing was ever done. Instead, authorities encouraged her to “change her phone number.”
Jacqueline said she knew something was up when she — along with the rest of her siblings — received a text from Brandy that read, “I love you so much just remember that please and I’m so sorry for everything.”
Immediately after reading the text, Jacqueline went to her sister’s bedroom, where she found her standing against the wall with the gun pointed at her chest. When begging her to put the gun down didn’t work, Jacqueline ran to get her parents for help and remained in a nearby room while her parents and grandparents tried to calm Brandy down.
“I was in my parents’ room and I just heard the shot and my dad just yelled, ‘help me, help me, help me,” she said.
Though it’s clear the tormenters knew who Brandy was, and it’s easy to assume her fellow students were the ones behind the messages, the school district claimed that coming to class was a “safe environment” for Brandy.
“School was a safe environment for Brandy,” Melissa Tortorici, Texas City Independent School District’s Director of Communications, said in a statement. “She had a lot of friends and was thought of warmly by her peers and teachers. She did bring it to the school’s attention before Thanksgiving break that she was getting harassing messages to her cellphone outside of school.”
No arrests have been made.