POSTED: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 12:08pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 12:08pm
Plano, Texas (NBC) — A teenager was arrested Tuesday for bullying a developmentally disabled student who received threatening messages including one text that read "kill urself," according to North Texas police.
Police in the Dallas suburb of Plano charged the teen with harassment, a misdemeanor. Police are not identifying the suspect because the teen is a juvenile. Officials say the suspect targeted 18-year-old Shea Shawhan with a series of graphic and violent texts that date to February.
Some of the messages mocked her disability and made references to rape. One told the Plano high school student, "Clearly no one wants you." They were sent through a website that disguised the sender. But police said search warrants issued to the website operator yielded an IP address that led to the suspect.
"I want teens to know you can use those services and it will hide your identity for a little bit, but we are able to find out who it is," Plano police spokesman David Tilley told The Dallas Morning News. The harassment has gained the attention of national radio host Glenn Beck and others.
Shawhan's supporters have posted comments on the "I'm With Shea" Facebook page. She suffered a brain injury due to complications suffered at birth, resulting in seizures and impaired development. Shawhan's mother, Keri Riddell, said the suspect is a girl that she and her daughter know. "It's a whole different pill to swallow when you know who the person is," Riddell told KDFW-TV in Dallas.
The arrest comes during National Bullying Prevention Month. Tilley added Wednesday the harassment charge was filed, rather than a more serious charge such as making terroristic threats, because investigators found "repeated, unwanted electronic communication." "Even though the texts were hurtful, mean, unnecessary and very, very concerning, the only criminal offense that we had was harassment," Tilley said.
The Plano school district recently launched an online reporting tool that allows students to report threats or instances of bullying and harassment. School officials did not immediately provide comment on the matter.