AMHERST, N.Y. — Police investigating the suicide of a bullied gay teenager said Tuesday that offensive comments he endured online and at school couldn't be considered criminal and that no charges would be filed.
Amherst investigators last month sent 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer's computer and cellphone to a forensics lab to help determine whether anyone should be prosecuted for the bullying he often talked about before taking his life Sept. 18. They also interviewed Jamey's family, friends and peers, uncovering five bullying episodes at Williamsville North High School, where he'd just begun his freshman year, Chief John Askey said.
"He was exposed to stresses in every facet of his life that were beyond what should be experienced by a 14-year-old boy," Askey told reporters during a news conference at police headquarters.
But neither the in-school bullying episodes, one of which involved pushing and an anti-gay remark, nor "insensitive and inappropriate" online comments were found to be prosecutable, Askey said, in part because the victim is dead and unable to help prove harassment or other charges that might have been filed.
"I'm not satisfied, to be honest," said Askey, adding that officers had devoted hundreds of hours to the investigation. "I would like to have seen something we could have done from a prosecution standpoint."
Jamey's father, Timothy Rodemeyer, had a similar response.
"We're not satisfied, but we somewhat expected this outcome," he told The Associated Press by phone after the press conference. "That's why we've taken on a mission trying to get laws passed that will make people accountable."
The investigation determined that three students had targeted Jamey in high school, one of whom hired a lawyer after Jamey's death. Those students weren't the ones commenting inappropriately in online forums, the investigation determined.
Anonymous posts on a Formspring account Jamey opened said "Kill your self!!!! You have nothing left!" and "Go kill yourself, you're worthless, ugly and don't have a point to live."
While Jamey had told his parents the taunting he'd endured in middle school had not carried over to high school, he posted online notes ruminating on suicide, bullying, homophobia and pop singer Lady Gaga.
"People would be like `faggot, fag,' and they'd taunt me in the hallways and I felt like I could never escape it," he said in a YouTube video posted in May as part of columnist Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project, which seeks to give voices and hope to bullied gay and lesbian teenagers.
After he hanged himself outside his home in suburban Buffalo, activists, journalists and Gaga herself seized on the suicide, decrying the loss of another promising life to bullying.
Even though no criminal charges will be filed, Askey said there have been other consequences.
"The fact that it can't be prosecuted shouldn't be the measuring stick here. I think people know that it's inappropriate, know that it's unacceptable. ... I think a message has been sent," Askey said. The bullies' "friends know who they are and their peers know who they are and they know that it's completely unacceptable in the eyes of this community, this police department and their peers."
Jamey's death followed other prominent teenage deaths linked to bullying or intimidation – notably Phoebe Prince, an Irish immigrant in Massachusetts taunted by classmates after she dated a popular boy, and Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman whose roommate is accused of spying on his same-sex encounter via webcam.