Nov. 21, 2008 — -- A Florida teenager who used a webcam to live-stream his suicide Wednesday was reportedly encouraged by other people on the Web site, authorities told ABCNews.com.
"People were egging him on and saying things like 'go ahead and do it, faggot,' said Wendy Crane, an investigator at the Broward County Medical Examiner's office.
Abraham Biggs, 19, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., had been blogging on an online body-building message board and had linked to his page on Justin.tv, a live video streaming Web site, where the camera rolled as he overdosed on prescription pills, according to Crane.
Biggs, who had reportedly been discussing his suicide on the forums, also posted a suicide note on a body-building forum, which has since been taken down, in which he wrote, "I hate myself and I hate living."
"I have let everyone down and I feel as though I will never change or never improve," Biggs wrote in the posting. "I am in love with a girl and I know that I am not good enough for her. I have come to believe that my life has all been meaningless. I keep trying and I keep failing. I have thought about and attempted suicide many times in the past."
The video and blog postings have since been removed from the sites, but Crane, who has seen both, said that at first viewers thought the suicide was a hoax.
"The bloggers said that Biggs had threatened to kill himself before and had faked it, so at first they didn't believe him," said Crane. "Gradually, as you read the blog further into the day the bloggers start commenting on how Biggs isn't moving."
Crane said comments on the thread included an exchange about whether the image of Biggs' motionless body was a still photograph or a video, and eventually resulted in one of the site's visitors calling the police, who tracked down the teen through his computer IP address.
According to Wired magazine, online viewers watching the video ranged from "OMG" -- Internet slang for oh my god -- and LOL -- an abbreviation for laughing out loud.
On a blog where Biggs wrote about his suicidal thoughts, which has since been removed, commenters wrote, "hahaha hahahahha hahahahahah ahhaha." Wired reported that someone else wrote: "Instant Darwinism ..." to which a fellow commenter wrote: "f**king a nicely put." Others called the teen a "coward," "faggot" and a "dick."
In the Web stream, Crane said viewers saw a piece of a door frame -- which had splintered from the police kicking in the teen's bedroom door -- hit Biggs, who is curled up on his bed and facing away from the camera.
"Then you see a police officer go in and check on him, and then the EMS pronounced him dead," said Crane.
Biggs was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 19 -- about 12 hours after he had begun blogging about his suicide.
The official cause of death was suicide combined with drug toxicity. Crane said that benzodiazepines and opiates were found near the body, but a blood toxicology to quantify just how much Biggs consumed is still under way.
Crane said that at least one of the prescription drugs was in Biggs' name.
Michael Seibel, the CEO of Justin.tv, posted a blog entry on the site titled "A Moment of Silence."
"Justin.tv staff would like to take a moment to recognize and reflect upon the tragedy that occurred within our community today," wrote Seibel. "We respect the privacy of the broadcaster and his family during this challenging time."
Reached by telephone, Biggs' father, Abraham Biggs Sr., told ABCNews.com that he was shocked to learn of his son's death.
"He was a good kid. Everyone knows him," said Biggs. "We live together and everything was fine -- I'm so surprised."
Biggs' father was not home at the time of his son's suicide, and the father told ABCNews.com that he was not aware that his son used Justin.tv.
Biggs had struggled with depression, according to his father, and had been prescribed medication for bipolar disorder. Benzodiazepine is commonly prescribed as a sleep aid or an anti-anxiety medication.
Even so, Biggs had been "doing better," according to his father and had been attending daily classes at Broward College, where he was pursing a career as a paramedic.
Internet Provides Outlet to Suffer in Public
"I am upset that Justin.tv streamed this live," said Biggs. "I have not seen it, and I do not intend to look at it.
"There seems to be a lack of control as to what people put out on the Internet," he said. "There's a lot of garbage out there that should not be, and unfortunately, this was allowed to happen."
David Griner, a social media strategist for Luckie & Company, said that while public deaths are not new, online chatrooms provide an especially accessible forum for those debating suicide.
"The social Web tends to create a sideshow atmosphere, like public executions in the 1700s," said Griner. "The anonymity and lack of personal connection bring out the worst in people."
Griner points out that there have been several other online suicides, and some have been faked as well.
In February 2008 a girl who identified herself only as "90 Day Jane" wrote an anonymous blog chronicling the days leading up to her death. The blog turned out to be a hoax, and "Jane" later described it as an "art project."
The United Kingdom had an online suicide in March 2007, when 42-year-old Kevin Whitrick hanged himself while others watched. According to the BBC, some onlookers tried to stop him while others urged him on.
"The explosion of high-speed Internet access in the past few years has made it so that almost anyone can broadcast a live video in front of a global audience," said Griner. "It's impossible for sites like Justin.tv to monitor everything that's going on, so that puts the burden on the community to help stop bad things from happening."
Griner believes that those who encourage suicidal people are simply a sad reality of an unrestricted World Wide Web. Even so, some potential suicides are prevented on the Internet as well.
"You'll always have the morbid jerks who yell 'Jump!' when someone's on a rooftop, and you'll always have people threatening suicide in a public venue," said Griner. "And while it's easy to focus on the abundance of bloodthirsty trolls online, the bright side is that the Internet also gives more decent people the opportunity to intervene and try to save a life."
"Most times, they just need someone to talk to, and the Internet is the only forum they have."