Video of a so-called school beating is creating a public cry to end bullying. But Jemison police say the incident was actually a staged fight and had nothing to do with the death of a 12-year-old participant.
After talking to other students and taking the video to the coroner and Children's of Alabama, police concluded the rough housing inside a Jemison Middle School bathroom did not cause Christopher Rico's death. They say it's a type of viral fight videos hitting the internet called Tapout.
"I'll never say as a human being, as a person, as a father, having gone to school myself, as the police chief, bullying does not exist. I know it does," said Chief Shane Fulmer of the Jemison Police Department.
But Fulmer says this iPod video from a Jemison Middle School bathroom last month isn't bullying.
One of the students in it is Christopher who later had a brain aneurysm leading to his death.
"Nothing occurred on the video that would've caused the injuries," said Fulmer of the conclusion following a review by the coroner, district attorney and hospital.
Fulmer says Christopher's parents never expressed any concern about bullying. In fact, Chilton County Schools brought the incident and video to his attention.
"The video was being taken because they wanted to put it on YouTube," said Fulmer who added that Christopher was a willing participant.
Investigators learned some students had already recorded other videos of them play fighting at Quail Ridge Apartments and posted them online. It's called Tapout Jemison.
"They were coming from off the property and gathering around the swings and buildings here," said Quail Ridge Apartment Manager Gay Kizzire of a crowd of children that started gathering a few months ago to stage fights for YouTube.
Kizzire called police about the headlocks and play fighting. She also sent letters warning parents of possible eviction if children participated in Tapouts.
"They're really trying to get each other to pass out," she said.
The Tapout Jemison videos were pulled from the internet.
Police say unless someone gets hurt, they cannot do anything.
The investigation into Christopher's death is still on-going. It will be presented to a grand jury for a death review at the end of July.
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