An Alabama teen, who has been described as being “full of light,” tragically took his own life after constant homophobic bullying.
His mother, Camika Shelby, says she’s still “shocked.”
“He was just special,” Camika told NBC News of her 15-year-old son Nigel Shelby following his death on Thursday.
“Nigel was the sweetest child. He was so outgoing. He was always full of joy, full of light.”
Though Nigel brought happiness to those who loved him, he battled depression as he struggled to accept his sexuality.
“Coming out at such a young age, it can be hard,” Camika told NBC News. You never know if you’re going to be accepted. He didn’t know if I was going to accept it — that’s my child I love him.”
Unfortunately, Camika’s support for her son didn’t stop the ruthless bullying he faced by his peers.
Camika recalled the last moments she spent with Nigel the night before he died.
“He told me, ‘Mom I’m going to do better in school.’ He kissed me and told me that he loved me,” Camika told the outlet. “That was the last conversation that I had with my baby.”
“When I got up to go to work the next morning he was still asleep, so I didn’t even get to talk to him anymore.”
When Camika returned home around 6 p.m. that evening, she found her son dead.
Despite his struggles, Camika said she had no idea her son would take his own life. “I’m kind of confused myself as to exactly what made him want to take his own life. I didn’t think he was going through that much. I knew he was depressed, we were going to see doctors… I’m still shocked.”
“He was struggling with his identity… depression is real — it’s really a disease,” Camika said.
“When you have a kid that’s already depressed and going through a lot emotionally for you to call him names that you shouldn’t call them or say stuff to them — it sometimes has a worse effect than it would on a child who’s not struggling with depression,” she said of the homophobic bullying.
But Camika told the outlet she wants her boy to be remembered for more than just how and why he died.
“He was so much more than that. He was sunshine. It breaks my heart because he had so much more love to give.”
Following the news of Nigel’s death, Huntsville High School, where Nigel was enrolled as a freshman, released a statement in support of the Shelby family.
“Our sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with Nigel’s family. Parents, please talk to your students about Nigel’s death. Know and be aware of changes in your child. Talk to them about what they see, words they speak and actions they can take to make a difference. We must be better,” the statement read.
Nigel’s story has not only rocked his community, but has touched a number of celebrities.
On Tuesday, Justin Bieber shared an article on Nigel’s death writing, “This is horrible.”
“I hate this with a passion… stop the hatred please! I don’t understand how people can be so ignorant and hateful,” Bieber, 25, added.
The singer’s wife Hailey Baldwin commented two broken-hearted emojis.
Despite the outpouring of support, Nigel’s story has also brought out negative responses.
As of Tuesday, an Alabama Sheriff’s Deputy has been suspended after allegedly leaving anti-LGBTQ comments on a Facebook post about Nigel’s death, according to WAFF 48.
Madison County Deputy Jeff Graves slammed the public’s outrage over Nigel’s passing writing, “I’m seriously offended there is such a thing as the movement. Society cannot and should not accept this behavior,” the outlet reported.
“Liberty, Guns, Bible, Trump and BBQ — that’s my kind of LGBTQ,” Graves shared.
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The comment has since been removed.
When asked about Graves’ words, Madison County Lt. Donny Shaw told Alabama.com “The Sheriff’s Office holds all its employees to [a] high standard, and the public can be assured that a thorough and complete audit will be conducted and appropriate action will be taken.”
“The involved employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the audit,” the statement read.
Graves could not immediately be reached for comment.
A GoFundMe page has been created in hopes of raising money for Nigel’s funeral arrangements.
The page has raised over $30,000 at this time.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.