MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — The sister of a 19-year-old Pullman, Wash., man who committed suicide last weekend is seeking an apology from an Idaho sheriff’s deputy she says harassed her brother via Facebook in the days before his death.
Alise Smith said her brother’s decision to end his life was his own, but she believes the comments that Andrew Cain received about arrest warrants in Latah County became too much for him.
The sheriff’s office Facebook page included a “wanted poster” and a post congratulating Cain on being the county’s most wanted person of the month for June.
Smith, of Pullman, Wash., said a deputy also sent private messages to her brother on Facebook.
Sheriff Wayne Rausch told The Associated Press on Thursday that a deputy did exchange messages with Cain, but the printout he saw showed it was Cain who initiated the exchange by telling the deputy he liked his new wanted poster.
The deputy replied that if Cain turned himself in, he’d give him a copy.
“How this could be construed as taunting or rude or harassment or anything like that, I’m at a loss,” Rausch said.
Smith said she understood the “wanted poster” but felt the “congratulations” comment and the private messages were an abuse of power.
Rausch said he told the employee who added the “congratulations” to the post that it was not appropriate and not to do it again.
Smith told KLEW-TV that she received a text from her brother early last week that said he felt like putting a bullet in his brain. The message included a screen shot of Facebook messages from a deputy, Smith said.
“Eventually, it all just got too much to handle because other people were texting him and messaging him on Facebook and he just couldn’t handle all of the people telling him how awful a person he was,” Smith told KLEW.
Cain fatally shot himself Sunday, Whitman County Coroner Pete Martin said.
Smith said Rausch apologized, but she wants to hear from the deputy.
Rausch stood by his department’s decision to notify residents about arrest warrants, but he told the Lewiston Tribune on Wednesday that he was seriously considering removing his office’s Facebook page.
“This social media has gotten completely out of hand.” Rausch said. “Nobody monitors it.”
He said people make vulgar and profane comments and want to be part of conversations without knowing all the facts.
Cain’s criminal history in Latah County dates back to a misdemeanor conviction for unlawful possession of a handgun by a minor. He was convicted for a February 2012 burglary and petit theft and given a suspended sentence. He was sentenced to two months in jail for violating his probation last October.
Last November, he was fined after being found guilty of possession of a controlled substance.
Cain was charged again in April with violating his probation in the break-in, with court records indicating he had tested positive for marijuana twice in March. A warrant was issued because he failed to appear in court, Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said.
Smith said Cain was trying to turn his life around. She said he had moved to Washington and got a full-time construction job.
Martin, the coroner, said he couldn’t point to any one cause for Cain’s suicide.
“When somebody is depressed and they’re given issues of warrants and Facebook posts as policy of the county, you have to assume that caused him some frustration,” Martin told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. “Generally, it is not one thing that causes a person to take their life, but I’m sure it was upsetting to him. It’s reasonable to ask the questions.”
Both Martin and Rausch called the death a tragedy.
“That he felt necessary to end his life over facing consequences is tragic,” Rausch said in his statement.