CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - More than hundred people, most of them young people, attended an emotional candlelight vigil Friday night for teen who committed suicide Tuesday after his mother claims he was bullied at school.
Justin De'Andre James, 13, took his own life on Tuesday, Feb. 8, sometime after 3:30 p.m., according to a statement issued on Thursday by a Charlotte group called Mothers Of Murdered Offspring (MOMO).
Many of the youth at the vigil, held across the street from his home on Joshua Lane were classmates or friends of the teen.
No matter what the circumstances of James' death, many we talked to at the vigil say bullying has to stop.
"I see it so much in school these days," said Harrison Kwolyk, who didn't know James, but has been the victim of bullying before. "It just makes you feel like you're worth nothing. You're just like the smallest piece of anything on earth."
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Justin lived on Joshua Lane with his mother, Raven Williams, who is a single mother of five.
She says her son was suspended on Monday, Feb. 7, after getting into a fight at Sedgefield Middle School.
Williams points out that her son was no angel, and that Justin got into fights and was suspended multiple times. She said her son got into fights with other students who bullied him, and that the frequency of these fights had recently increased over the past four months.
Our police sources say there were a number of complaints filed against James for fighting. WBTV has also talked to classmates of the teen who have given us conflicting reports. Some say the teen was bullied; others say he did the bullying.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district and Sedgefield Middle School has not acknowledged that Justin was "bullied" at school as his mother claims.
"I'm not trying to act like my son was innocent," Williams said. "By no means. He was your basic pre-teen boy, always into some type of mischief, but he wasn't always the villain in the situation."
Following a fight on Monday, Williams says officials at the school placed her son in In-School Suspension (ISS) for the remainder of the day because she was unable to pick him up from school. He was sent home on the bus and instructed not to return back to school on Tuesday.
Williams says Justin was "rattled" about the fight when he arrived home.
The school had already called Williams to tell her about the incident. She says they threatened to file juvenile assault charges. When she confronted Justin about the incident, he told her a boy slapped him. So, she dropped the matter saying she didn't think he was in the wrong for standing up for himself.
Williams says she knows now that he was at his breaking point, but she didn't realize that at the time.
On Tuesday, Williams said she went out to run an errand and when she returned home, she found Justin dead in his sister's bedroom.
"My baby is gone now," she says. "My baby is gone. I'll never be able to hold my baby, or kiss my baby, or touch my baby, and tell him--I love him again."
Williams said she is concerned because these fights and problems had been going on and they were over "silly things."
"These kids, they're constantly ragging on each other about who got the best clothes and talking about each other's mothers," she said. "You never know what another person is going through or what their breaking point is. It has got to stop. It has got to stop."
Williams says, at times, her son got into fights while defending his family.
"There was an incident where one little boy called [Justin's] sister the b-word, and he got really offended by that. Also, I keep short hair, so they constantly rag on him about his mom being bald-headed. And he's like, 'She's bald-headed by choice.' Little silly stuff like that. To us it's minute, but to them it's really big."
If Justin were still alive, Williams said she would tell him he wasn't wrong to stand up for himself.
She says she doesn't necessarily blame the school. Furthermore, she says she's not sure who to blame or what to think.
She just can't believe her son is gone.
Williams says the school in the meantime has offered its condolences to her.
A parent of another student at Sedgefield Middle School says school officials contacted all parents on Wednesday to inform them about Justin's death. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said they have also had grief counselors at the school this week available to talk with students if necessary.
MOMO organize Judy Williams said MOMO normally holds vigils for victims of murder or domestic violence, but they are holding a vigil for Justin because "...when a child takes his or her life from being bullied, it's another form of homicide - 'Death by Bullying.'"
A public viewing for Justin will be held Sunday from 1-7 p.m. at Alexander Funeral Home on 1424 Statesville Avenue in Charlotte. His funeral will be Monday at 1 p.m. at Unity Fellowship Church of Charlotte at 2127 Eastway Drive.
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