After months of investigating, police in the Dallas suburb of Plano have arrested a student for viciously bullying a teenager with special needs at Plano West Senior High. The sophisticated cyber bullying took place mainly through text messages, which often contained threats of violence, rape and death.
The victim is 17-year-old Shea Shawhan, an outgoing girl with a traumatic brain injury that causes seizures and a low IQ.
"I wish I could say I am overjoyed here, but there are no winners in this situation," Shea's mom, Keri Riddell, posted on Facebook after the October 29 arrest.
"I wish I could say I am overjoyed here, but there are no winners in this situation," Shea Shawhan's mom, Keri Riddell, posted on Facebook.
Riddell started a Facebook page earlier this month to promote awareness about bullying and search for her daughter's tormentors. Using the motto "I'm with Shea," the girl's story went viral. The page now has more than 83,000 likes.
Shea was interviewed by Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee, and Mark Cuban invited her to be a special guest at Dallas Mavericks preseason game. Bright yellow T-shirts bearing the motto and tagline "Stand up, don't stand by" were ordered all across the country.
Still, the investigation didn't yield quick results. Plano Police Department spokesman David Tilley says the teen sending Shea text messages used a third-party vendor that disguises a sender's identity. Eventually, detectives were able to crack the code. The teen was arrested around 2 pm October 29 on a class B misdemeanor offense.
"We were able to determine that based on the evidence, it met the elements of the crime of harassment," Tilley says. "Our detectives were very diligent in their efforts."
Because the accused is a minor, no identifying details (age, gender) are being released. Plano police do not believe there is evidence to support the theory that anyone else was involved. "However, we are still looking into the case, and if it is determined others are, they too will face the same charges," Tilley says.
Plano ISD superintendent Richard Matkin took the opportunity to praise the police officers and remind students what is expected of them.
"This investigation has brought a great deal of attention to assist with stamping out bullying behaviors," Matkin said in a statement. "Anti-bullying messages remain important, and this incident has been a challenge to manage without compromising child privacy law requirements and also attempting to maintain educational focus. We expect all students to exemplify respect, good citizenship and to reflect compassion for all."