#FreeAlex: Community supports teen after vandalizing accusation - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

#FreeAlex: Community supports teen after vandalizing accusation

(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Family and friends of a Mississippi teenager accused of vandalizing a school believe police have the wrong suspect.

Several viewers contacted WMC Action News 5 from North Mississippi asking us to look into the recent arrest.

A 15-year-old is accused of breaking and entering the middle school in Ripley, Miss. and spray painting graffiti on desks and other areas.

Family members of Alex Rayburn identified him as the suspect, but believe he is innocent of the charge.

The Ripley High School Tigers play a football game Friday, and Rayburn would be playing his saxophone with the band. Instead, he is suspended after being accused of the vandalism.

Security cameras captured the incident, but family members say the video is poor quality.

Tina Stacey said her cousin is worried this will impact his goal of getting a scholarship.

"That's what he's focused on. He's not a kid who would be thinking in the middle of the night, let me get up and go to the school and vandalize inside this school. This is not Alex," Stacey said.

Rayburn's friends describe him as a straight a student and a church and community leader who has never been in trouble.

"When he came into my office, he really talked more about I don't want this on my college resume and things like that, he was worried about what it might hold for his future," said Jeff Moore, his youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Ripley.

A police report reveals that, initially, even his parents thought the suspect looked like their son.

According to the same report, they told police the suspect resembled Rayburn and appeared to walk in a similar way.

Friday they said it was poor quality video and the lone suspect in a white shirt could be anyone.

Rayburn denied everything, but he was still arrested at school this week in front of his classmates.

"You know that would have to have been very embarrassing for a little teenage kid," Stacey said.

Some students showed their support Friday, using the hash tag #freealex on Twitter and Facebook.

Others wore white shirts to school, just like the suspect in the video.

Rayburn's case will be handled in youth court.

His parents say he has been suspended from school for five days and will then be sent to an alternative school.

WMC Action News 5 tried to reach the South Tippah County Schools superintendent for the district's side of the story, but there was no room to leave a message.

His family feels so passionate about the issue that they're offering their own money as a reward for information. If you know anything, call Ripley police.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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