'I am a thief:' Teen wears sign as punishment for stealing

'I am a thief:' Teen wears sign as punishment for stealing »Play Video
An 18-year-old Selah man was forced to wear this sign after he was caught stealing from family friends. (Photo by Michael Spears, Action News)

SELAH, Wash.  --  Heavy words hung from the neck of a teenager at a busy Selah intersection Wednesday.

A sign around his neck read,"I am a thief."

Another sign on his back spelled out exactly who he stole from for everyone to see.

Leland McClellan was caught stealing jewelry from a family friend's house party last weekend.

The family suspected it was him and demanded he give it back.

McClellan was then left with two options: Either wear the sign at the busy intersection or face law enforcement.

KIMA tracked down the man who offered Leland the deal.

"Standing down there with this sign is about taking ownership for his actions, admitting what he's down and moving on," said John Drakes, who has known the 18-year old's family for 12-years.

Leland's mother says her son has a history of theft and did time in jail in the past.

She was visibly emotional when we tracked her down and only wanted to be identified by her first name.

"It was his choice," said "Julie." I don't see anything wrong with it. I hope it turns his life around."

A lot of people on the street didn't see anything wrong either.

McClellan got plenty of attention; gestures, looks and people taking pictures.

KIMA even witnessed one man drive around the block to get a picture of both sides of the sign.

But a handful of people actually stopped to give Leland bible excerpts and advice.

It struck a chord with one woman who cried when she spoke to the teen.

"I have 10 kids," said Mary Winterfeld.

Action News asked, "Would you consider doing any of this to your kids?"

"Absolutely not," responded Winterfeld. "Humiliation is not a tool for teaching."

"I think it's wrong. I really do. It's like he's being crucified," added Kathleen Nedrow.

Leland told Action News off camera that wearing the sign is a pretty big deterrent and his family and friends hope it's enough.

McClellan arrived at that intersection at six in the morning and left around 4 pm.