“We tried to persuade her to put the gun down, but she was determined,” Brandy Vela’s father, Raul Vela, told KHOU-TV. “She said she’d come too far to turn back. It was very unfortunate that I had to see that. It’s hard when your daughter tells you to turn around. You feel helpless.”
In interviews with local media outlets, Vela’s family has alleged the teen was cyberbullied before her death, saying that she had been harassed for some time. And, in the wake of her death, police said they were investigating the claim.
The Texas City Police Department last week said that officers arrived at a home on Tuesday and discovered an 18-year-old, identified as Brandy Vela, with an “apparent gunshot wound” to the upper chest. An investigation determined that the wound was self-inflicted.
“During the investigation Texas City Police Detectives were informed that the deceased was a possible victim of Cyberbullying,” the agency said in the release. “Texas City Police Detectives are currently investigating the allegations of the Cyberbullying.”
Raul Vela alleged in an interview with KHOU-TV that an online user or users posted “nasty things” about his daughter and set up a false account about the teen. He said the harassment sometimes kept her up at night, because her phone kept ringing.
Jacqueline Vela alleged similar incidents in her interview with KPRC-TV, saying that her sister would have to deal with fake dating websites that included her phone number and photo. Those websites, Jacqueline claimed, would suggest that Brandy Vela was “giving herself up for sex for free, to call her.”
“I’m glad you got what you wanted,” Brandy Vela’s brother, Victor Vela, told KPRC-TV, in comments directed at the alleged online bullies. “I hope this makes you happy.”
Melissa Tortorici, spokeswoman for the Texas City Independent School District, said in a statement that Brandy Vela “had a lot of friends” and was “thought of warmly by her peers and teachers.” Before the Thanksgiving break, she did raise concerns about harassing messages on her cellphone.
“Our deputy investigated it and the app that was being used to send the messages was untraceable,” Tortorici said in the statement. “We encouraged her to change her phone number. I am not sure if that was done.”
Deputies from the local sheriff’s department were expected to discuss cyberbullying with students next week, the statement read, and students have been taping blue hearts in the school’s hallways.
“We are mourning the loss of a wonderful young lady. We are trying to take care of our students’ needs on campus as they grieve,” Superintendent Cynthia Lusignolo said in the statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Brandy’s family and friends. We appreciate the outpouring of support we have had in helping us take care of her teachers’ and classmates’ needs.”
Vela’s father told the Galveston County Daily News that his daughter was a waitress at a local restaurant but hoped to become a vet someday. She was, Raul Vela told the newspaper, “doing what every parent would want their daughter to do.”
“Everybody is devastated, of course,” Raul Vela told KPRC-TV. “We lost one of our angels.”