A Cass County mom says she isn’t giving up in her fight to get justice for her son who she believes is a victim of bullying in an unprovoked attack.
“I’m mad,” says Robin Bray. “We didn’t get justice for what this kid did to my son.”
Two days before his 17th birthday, Bryson Bray had just finished a shift of working at the grocery store in Peculiar on Sept. 22 when he decided to meet some of his friends at Aaron’s Family Fun Center in Belton that evening.
While bowling, Bray, a junior at Raymore-Peculiar High School, says he noticed another teenage boy who he didn’t know looking at him strangely from across the room.
Bray didn’t have a good feeling about the stare. He told his friends about the other boy and felt that they should leave and they decided to go to Memorial Park in Belton. To his dismay, the teen that had given Bray the suspicious look at the bowling alley showed up at the park too about 15 minutes later. Within moments, the boy began to make a scene and cursed at Bray.
According to Bray, the boy then turned to leave, but before he left, punched him in the left jaw. Bray says he didn’t retaliate.
While it was an assault, Bray said the randomness of the crime leads her to believe it was also an incidence of bullying.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” she said.
Valerie Holmes, a school counselor at Harrisonville Middle School, says bullying can come in many different forms.
“The two main categories are passive bullying (name calling, body language, talking behind their backs, spreading rumors) and aggressive bullying (physical fights, yelling loudly),” Holmes said. “Both can be equally damaging and cause harm.”
After the incident at the park, Bray returned home and his mother observed that he was spitting up blood and could barely open his mouth when he tried to eat.
One of teen’s friends was able to identify the aggressor, so the Brays decided to file a report with the Belton Police Department that evening.
Police arrested the juvenile defendant and detained him in the Cass County Juvenile Detention Center while a petition was filed by a juvenile officer alleging one count of second degree assault and one count of behaviors and associations injurious to self and the welfare of others.
During the course of receiving medical treatment, doctors determined Bray’s jaw had been broken in three places, along with a broken jaw joint.
“And this was just one hit,” Bray said.
Bray underwent surgery. His mouth was then wired shut in order for the jaw to heal.
Since the surgery, Bray has been forced to eat through a syringe and communicate by writing on a small, white marker board. Doctors believe he will suffer from permanent numbness as well as symptoms such as lock jaw.
Bray’s mother said her son’s plans to join the military after graduating high school may be diminished if the doctors’ predictions are correct.
“It’s really turned everything upside down,” Bray said.
Upon investigation, the Brays said they learned the defendant’s actions wasn’t his first time to break the law. Records indicate the teen has had seven run-ins with the law this year alone in Belton.
He was also referred to the county’s juvenile office in 2008 for misdemeanor property damage and an ordinance violation of disorderly conduct in 2009, according to court records.
In court last month, unable to speak for himself due to the wiring in his mouth, Bray’s mother made an emotional plea on her son’s behalf.
“I pray that the court understands what the severity of the damage is and that it has occurred by (the defendant’s) actions…I pray that when the court sentences him if he chooses this crime again that he is charged with the maximum penalty to the fullest and that this does go onto his permanent record for life as an adult. Bryson’s sentencing is for life already.”
The defendant admitted to the allegations in the petition and received a punishment of probation for one year, 20 hours of community service, was ordered to participate in anger management classes and write a letter of apology.
“It feels like we didn’t get justice,” Bray said. “I feel as a parent, as (the defendant) was walking out of court laughing and smiling, how did I get justice for my son? I feel I let my son down and so did the courts. My son has permanent damage for the rest of his life and is paying for this juvenile’s mistake and this won’t even show up in his permanent adult record.”
Bray, who was also unable to get a protection order against the defendant, believes the system has failed her son because the criminal behavior of the defendant has not been corrected -- and that the bullying needs to stop.
“Some indicators of someone who is being a ‘bully’ include constant lying, refusal to compromise or accept blame, no remorse for their actions, often changes friends, and that person refuses to take responsibility,” Holmes said.
Bray said there have been rumors on social media that the defendant might act again. Holmes did note that there is a fine line between bullying and an aggressor creating conflict.
“I think people use the terms ‘conflict’ and ‘bullying’ interchangeably sometimes. A conflict is where both sides have equal power and control over the situation. This is very normal for people to experience and be able to work through,” Holmes said. “Conflict can sometimes become bullying when one or more people hold most of the power and control or has an intent to harm or plan to harm their target in the future.”
Robin Bray is now trying to get local and state lawmakers to take a look at the juvenile system and see if there is something that can be done to prevent repeat offenders and why the individual wasn’t tried as an adult. She is seeking law changes in the juvenile system for more stricter punishment for violent crimes, the ability to try older juveniles as an adult, and to change laws on protective order petitions.
“(The defendant) has admitted that he did not know Bryson, had never seen Bryson, or talked to him,” Bray said. “It’s crazy. Something gotta be done.”
Bray has created a petition on www.gopetition.com for her son, as well as a Facebook group and page, “Justice for Bryson Bray.”