When a 13-year-old Tacoma girl jumped off a bridge to her death last week, her uninformed friends and supporters blamed her father for publicly shaming her. But police say a video filmed by Izabel Laxamana's father did not drive her to commit suicide.
Tacoma Public Information Officer Loretta Cool told the NY Daily News the video was not the reason the troubled teenager killed herself.
"She was a 13-year-old that made some poor choices, meaning that she didn't have to kill herself," Cool said.
Cool said the father's decision to discipline Izabel by chopping off her long hair was a poor choice.
The video, which has since been deleted, shows Izabel standing in a garage. A male voice believed to be her father's says:
"The consequences of getting messed up?" Then the camera pans to long black locks of hair strewn on the floor. "Man, you lost all that beautiful hair. Was it worth it?"
"No," says Izabel in a barely audible whisper.
"How many times did I warn you?"
"Twice," the girl responds.
Police say on Friday Izabel exited a car on a Tacoma bridge and leaped to the expressway below. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Mourners poured out their grief on a Tacoma blog. Many of them blamed her father for cutting off her hair and videotaping it. But police say a family friend, not the father, uploaded the video to YouTube after she died.
"It was, 'I'm going to record this, it's yours, that way you'll think twice before you do this again,’" Cool said, adding that the father used the video as a tool of discipline, not shaming.
"It was part of the discipline process," she said. "So she would remember and not do it again."
Cool also disputed claims that Izabel was bullied at school,
"At least one of the people who claimed to have inside knowledge didn't even know the girl," Cool argued. "It's been a very frustrating investigation."
Adding to the confusion, the video may have been uploaded to YouTube after the girl's death, which means it did not play a role in her suicide.
The person who uploaded the video on Sunday wrote in the description, "The purpose of this upload is to hopefully discourage another parent from engaging in shame videos," the video's description reads while listing various social media sites linked to the teen's death.
Cool said she hopes the tragedy motivates people to assess their friends for signs of trouble (depression) -- and seek help for them.
"I’m a little concerned for the kids out there who really are experiencing problems and that with the notoriety of this (case) they're going to think that this is the solution and it's not.
"There are so many ways we can intervene and help," she said.