Jordan: There are a lot of little tragedies surrounding the death of a 14 year old Carson Crimeni. It’s one of those horrors that leave so many people wondering what if. What if just one little thing was different? Would he still be alive? But the real tragedy has no what ifs about it at all, and that’s the reason his story has shocked the country.
News Clip: Let’s turn to British Columbia because a community in that province is in shock after the apparent overdose death of a 14 year old boy. Investigators right now seeking the public’s help after shocking video and pictures of his final moments were posted online. This Snapchat image shows a young man pointing to an ambulance with the caption Carson almost died, laugh out loud. It was reportedly taken as a teen was being rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. They knew he would die, he was dying right in front of their eyes, and they just filmed it. Nobody called for help.
Jordan: We know that at least a dozen people and probably hundreds of people watched Carson while he was dying and did nothing. It’s one thing to ask yourself after a crime. How could someone do that to another person? It’s another level of awful to wonder how could so many people watch that happen to a kid without doing anything? What happens to a community where one child is dead and everyone knows that 10 other kids watched it happen, but nobody’s certain who those kids are? How the hell do you navigate that while you’re waiting to see what the police do next?
Jordan: I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings, and this is The Big Story. Nancy MacDonald is a reporter for The Globe and Mail who spent time in the community where Carson lived. Hi Nancy.
Nancy: Hi Jordan.
Jordan: I’m gonna get you to walk me through how Carson died and what happened here, but first, just tell me, who was he? What kind of a kid was Carson?
Nancy: Carson had just finished grade 8 in June, he just turned 14 a month before he died. He was a boy who loved to cook, he loved animals, and he loved making people laugh. He didn’t have a lot of friends and his family and friends he did have said he wanted to make friends and fit in. He was a vulnerable kid, he had ADHD attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and that could make him a target there were certain things Carson couldn’t control. You know, in class he had trouble sitting still, he talked too much, he moved around, he made noise when other kids were quiet. And I think kids his age had trouble understanding why he was acting that way, and so he got teased a lot and he got bullied.
Jordan: What happened to him on August 7th?
Nancy: August 7th was a summer day, it was a nice, warm, sunny day. At some point that day he met up with a group of about 10 or 11 older kids and started hanging out with them. At some point that afternoon, it looks like late afternoon or early evening from the videos, it’s alleged he was given a substantial amount of MDMA, which is a party drug known in my time as ecstasy and today known as molly. The group at that point was at the Skate Park in Walnut Grove, which is a small community about 45 minutes to an hour outside Vancouver, and this is where Carson lived and went to high school. Pretty soon videos and photos of him started showing up on social media, on Snapchat, Instagram especially, and these videos appear to make fun of Carson. So the group starts the night at the skatepark, and at some point it looks like they moved next door to the high school and the grounds behind high school.
Jordan: Who were these kids he was with? Did he know them? Do we know who they are now?
Nancy: We’re still working to confirm that. Witnesses say there was about 10 or 11 of them. The younger ones looked in the age range of 15, 16, 17. There were at least two older kids who were not minors who were probably 18 or 19 and there was one who might have been the oldest 21. It’s not clear how well Carson knew them. I’ll have to leave it at that.
Jordan: Did anybody else know where he was or who he was hanging out with?
Nancy: The last contact Carson had with his dad was at 4:22 that afternoon. He told his dad he was off to see a movie with some friends. His dad, Aron, thinks that was fake, that Carson told him because he knew his dad wouldn’t let him hang out with kids at the skate park. So Aron, who’s Carson’s dad, knew he was out there and, you know, starting at about 6:30 when Carson was supposed to be home Aron started trying to get a hold of him.
Jordan: And he couldn’t, or?
Nancy: He couldn’t. He called Carson’s cellphone 11 times, and it just rang through so there was still battery but it was just ringing through. Carson didn’t have a voice message system set up and starting at about 8:45 or 9 he started to panic and started driving around looking for him. A bit later on he called Carson’s grandpa who lives closer to the school and his grandpa was out on foot looking for him.
Jordan: And at the time that this is happening, that’s when these videos are showing up on social media.
Jordan: What’s it like to watch those videos? What do you see? Cause you describe them in your piece, and they sound awful.
Nancy: Yeah. So what do you see when you watch the videos? So in them Carson’s being made fun of. You know, one of the videos is called 12 year old twerking with Molly. In that one Carson is, uh; This is one of the; It looks like it’s one of the earliest video shot from the night. In that one he’s sweating and we can; He’s sweating through this grey hoodie he’s wearing. He’s kind of moving around, and there’s a group of older kids surrounding him and some are laughing at him. Uh, there’s another one, um, where he’s asked his name and, uh and he can’t give the answer, and you know he says his name’s Peter or something like that and then the kids start laughing. At that point, he’s red faced, he’s really hot looking. He’s, you know, his hair’s all wet from sweat, he looks really scared in that one, and you know what really stands out to me is how young he looks. He just looks like a baby. Uh, the other question to ask is what’s it like to watch them? It’s like watching a snuff video, you know. You know he’s going to die, you know, these are his last hours on Earth. They’re haunting, I can’t get them out of my mind. I wanted to describe in that story what was done to Carson so I forced myself to watch them. His family haven’t seen them, they can’t bring themselves to watch them and I hope they never do see them.
Jordan: What happened when those videos went up on social media? I mean, surely people saw them and realized there was something really badly wrong.
Nacy: Um,,, that’s the thing eh? Nothing happened. There were 10 kids who saw; who were with him who saw what was going on and didn’t call police and didn’t try to intervene. And there were countless people who saw those videos online? Now… we ran a story today. The good news is there was one person who did do something. At about eight o’clock that night this person had seen the videos, and did phone police, and told them that this kid was in danger, that he’d taken a large amount of MDMA and he needed help.
Jordan: It’s amazing that so many people could be there, and so many people could have watched it and one person makes a phone call.
Nancy: Yeah. Yeah.
Jordan: How was he eventually found? By who?
Nancy: He was found just before 10 o’clock that night by a young person called Mitchell Patterson. We spoke to Mitchell, we spoke to his mom, and both he and his mom were okay with his name being used, and you know, Mitchell Story being told in media. So Mitchell’s 15, he’s also a student at Walnut Grove, the secondary school, and he lives near the community center. So he was on his way home, he had a 10’oclock curfew, and the first thing he saw was a pair of shoes and then he saw Carson. At that point, he said, Carson was on his back and he sort of leaned up against a fence that surrounds the soccer field, and at that point, he said, Carson was shaking really, really violently, and he was really cold. So he’s still alive, he was breathing at that point, but his breath was coming in ragged and in strange patterns. Dor 20 seconds Mithcell said he’d stop breathing and Mitchell was with a friend, and he and a friend called police and just as police arrived, so did Carson’s grandpa, Darrel Crimeni. Darrel actually followed the police flashing lights because you remember Darrel Crimeni was out looking for his grandson as well.
Jordan: Right. And when the police arrived?
Nancy: So Darrel followed him in and he walked behind the police car and he could see police trying to put him on adult sized oxygen mask onto his grandsons mouth, and he panicked and called a son and told him he found him. He was still breathing, but he kept saying, it’s bad. It looks really bad. It’s bad.
Jordan: Did he make it to the hospital?
Nancy: Doctors have told Carson’s dad and grandpa that he probably didn’t; That they think he probably died on that field. When Carson’s dad Aron got to the hospital, you know, he ran into the ER and they were trying to revive Carson, and he kept begging them to keep going, keep going but they said, you know, at that point he had no pulse, he wasn’t breathing, and he was probably dead before he arrived.
Jordan: You came into this community after it had happened and tried to piece together what was going on there? Immediately after Carson passed, the next morning what happened in that community?
Nancy: There are all kinds of rumors flying around. There’s a lot of anger, there’s like this sense of how could this have happened here? I mean, I grew up in Manitoba, you know, just outside the city, and, you know, the high schools and community centers I was at did not look like this. This is a beautiful brand new high school, beautiful community center, a groundskeeper and manager grounds you know, surrounded by this beautiful forest with tall red cedars and ravine. It looks idyllic, and I think that’s probably what a lot of parents think when they move out there. They moved there because the schools have great reputations and there’s lots for the kids to do. Yes, so there’s this overwhelming sense of how could this have happened? How could kids not have called parents or police? How could no one have intervened here? So it’s a community very much searching for answers right now?
Jordan: And does the community have any idea, and I mean, some of them, obviously must, of who the teens were that were around him, that were there when he was overdosing because if I was in a relatively small community like that, you know, you think that that would get out pretty quickly?
Nancy: Yeah. There are names that are being circulated, and there is concern from police that this could lead to retaliation and violence and Carson’s family have spoken up and they’re asking people to stay calm and they’re asking people to leave this in the hands of police of not, you know, not to try to do anything and police are saying the same thing. You know, they’re saying that, uh, you know, if anyone tries to do anything this is just going to lead to more young people getting into trouble.
Jordan: What are the police doing specifically and what kind of charges could result?
Nancy: There’s a big investigation going on right now. They’ve said they’ve got 10 officers involved in the investigation, they’ve set up a dedicated to plan out their staffing around the clock. Last time I spoke with them, they said they’d received 115 tips. They’ve taken something like 50 to 60 witness statements at this point, so they’ve taken this very seriously. In terms of what charges people involved could be facing, obviously, I’m not a lawyer, but there’s a criminal lawyer here in Vancouver who has seen some of the videos as well, and what she has said is there’s a range of charges, one of them could be something like criminal negligence because there’s; We’ve got a duty in Canada when someone is at risk to intervene; And this is a young kid who’s in distress and who needed someone to intervene, you know, for the person or persons who supplied the drugs, she says it could be trafficking offenses, and potentially there are more serious charges. But, as Carson’s family have said, proving this is going to be very, very difficult.
Jordan: When you talk to parents around the community what kind of factors do they blame for this happening? Because there’s been a lot of discussion after this tragedy about drug use among teens, but also among; About social media in particular, and whether or not this was a catalyst.
Nancy: Right? Yeah. So a lot of parents and even Carson’s family say the same thing that you know, his Aunt Diane said that she worries that in this world of social media that young people who are viewing so much through their screens are losing touch with, or you know, become disconnected from reality. You know, to them maybe what they’re seeing looks like a video on, and what she said to me was that, you know, this was real, this was really, really happening and no one thought the computer off and call 911. Then there’s another school of thought that this is just a twist on an age old story of targeting a young, vulnerable kid. So I think probably both things are at play in this story.
Jordan: How do people in the community who are you know, my age,or your age, or older, who grew up in a world like, you know, until I was almost 30 nobody really had a smartphone. How do you sort of understand how something like this can happen when you weren’t a teenager in that world?
Nancy: That’s a great question. But it’s when we’re gonna have to understand, because we’re raising kids in that world. You and I Jordan are the last generation to grow up with our feet in both worlds, what life was like before everyone had a smartphone. We knew we had, you know, five ways to entertain ourselves when there was no Facebook and Snapchat. But, you know, we also know what this world looks like so I think as parents we’re going to have to really figure out what our kids are facing when they grow up in a world where you know, starting from about age 10 everyone has a phone, and their social lives are centered around the phone and their interactions are happening on that phone.
Jordan: What is the skate park where Carson was filmed? What’s that like now?
Nancy: It’s become a memorial. It’s; The last time I was there, which is now three days ago, there were; No one was using the skate park as a skate park. It’s surrounded by flowers, there are messages to Carson spray painted and the jumps. Parents are bringing their kids there, parents are bringing flowers, and they’re bringing really young kids telling their kids exactly what happened and what could have been done and how important it is to stick up for your friends and to call a parent or police when you see something that’s really worrying. There is a pretty heavy police presence at the SkatePark, at the community center, and as a result, a lot of teens who normally hang out there have scattered, so, you know, I ended up running into some young people in the trails, in the forest around the community center and talking to them there.
Jordan: What’s the feeling among the young people?
Nancy: I think there’s a sense of that this was building, that something like this was going to happen, that this is going to be a wake up call.
Jordan: Why did they think it was building? That’s fascinating.
Nancy: I guess that, uh…. drug use was happening and that there’s….. people were using drugs that they don’t quite understand the potency and the strength of these things. When I was growing up, you know, people were drinking and people were drinking too much, and sometimes people had to go to the hospital and people were smoking pot but the word opioids I don’t really remember people taking party drugs, and there’s a sense that this is happening, and it’s happening younger and younger, and authorities and parents don’t really understand that it’s happening. And you know Mitchell, the young person I mentioned earlier who found Carson said that he was counting off six young people he knew who died from a drug overdose. You know, when I was 15 I certainly couldn’t list six people who died of drug overdose. Yeah.
Jordan: How has the community adapted in the wake of this? And I know you just; You had to walk in while they were still trying to figure out how and why, and, you know, there’s kind of a couple of ways that the community can go after this, is that they can come together or they can dissolve into rumors and blame.
Nancy: Yeah, I wonder if it’s still too early. I mean, when last I was there, it was still; Its rumours and finger pointing, and also a lot of shock in a sense of, uh…. well, there’s the search for answers and the sense of, you know, what can we do? How can we better support kids? One thing I heard from one person and I thought it was really smart is that you know, we go ways to teaching kids about racial differences and those sorts of things, but really have to start teaching the neurological differences, what it’s like to have a different brain and because, you know, there were things Carson couldn’t control about himself, and it made him vulnerable, and it made him a target, and maybe if kids had understood why he was jumping around class, and why he was talking when the teachers had told him not to, maybe they would have been a bit more empathetic and sympathetic and understood why he was behaving in that way.
Jordan: What happens next here? I guess everybody is waiting for the results of the investigation.
Nancy: Yeah, so the next thing that happens is Carson’s being buried next week. It’s, uh, Aron his father has opened the funeral to the public so anyone who wants to go can go, he says, Um, it’s happening at a church in Langley on August 29th at 1 p.m. Probably before the end of the month his family will get the results of the toxicology exam, and that will give them a sense of exactly what was in the system and how much. Um, and the investigation is ongoing, and I think people are very much interested in the results of that RCMP investigation.
Jordan: Thanks very much for talking to us today, Nancy.
Nancy: Thank you Jordan.
Jordan: Nancy MacDonald is with The Globe and Mail in Vancouver, and that was The Big Story. If you want more from us you can head to thebigstorypodcast.ca You can also find us on Twitter @thebigstoryfpn. If you’d like to subscribe, you could do it for free, wherever you get your podcasts on Apple, on Google, on Stitcher, or on Spotify. Give us a rating, give us a review. Claire Broussard is the lead producer of The Big Story, she’s off on vacation next week. Ryan Clarke and Stephanie Phillips will both be lead producers while she’s gone. Annalise Nielsen is our digital editor, and I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. Thanks for listening, have a good weekend. We’ll talk Monday.
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