- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2008

MIAMI (AP) | A 19-year-old Broward College student committed suicide by taking a drug overdose in front of a live Internet audience, as some computer users egged him on and others tried to talk him out of it.

The message “OMG” — or oh my God — popped up next to the live Webcam broadcast of Abraham Biggs laying motionless on his bed, followed by “LOL” — laughing out loud — and “hahahah.”

Some watchers ultimately contacted the Web site to notify police, but by the time officers entered his home, it was too late. The reality of what happened came to a head for these viewers after police entered the video frame and were seen hovering over Mr. Biggs’ body.

Mr. Biggs, whose family said he had bipolar (affective) disorder, lay dead on his bed in his father’s Pembroke Pines house Wednesday afternoon, the camera still running 12 hours after he announced his intentions online about 3 a.m.

It was not clear how many people watched the suicide unfold.

Mr. Biggs was not the first person to commit suicide with a Webcam rolling. But the drawn-out drama — and the reaction of those watching — was seen as an extreme example of young people’s penchant for sharing intimate details about themselves over the Internet.

The Biggs family was infuriated that no one acted sooner to save the teen, neither the viewers nor the Web site that hosted the live video, Justin.tv. The Web site shows a video image, with a space alongside where computer users can instantly post comments.

Only when police arrived did the Web feed stop, “so that’s 12 hours of watching,” said the victim’s sister, Rosalind Bigg. “They got hits, they got viewers, nothing happened for hours.”

An autopsy concluded that Mr. Biggs died from a combination of opiates and benzodiazepine, which his family said was prescribed for his bipolar disorder.

Mr. Biggs announced his plans to kill himself over a Web site for bodybuilders, authorities said. But some users told investigators that they did not take him seriously because he had threatened suicide on the site before.

Some members of his virtual audience encouraged him to do it, others tried to talk him out of it, and some discussed whether he was taking a dose big enough to kill himself, said Wendy Crane, an investigator with the Broward County medical examiner’s office.

Montana Miller, an assistant professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said the extremely public suicide was not shocking, given the way teenagers chronicle every facet of their lives on sites like Facebook and MySpace.

“If it’s not recorded or documented, then it doesn’t even seem worthwhile,” she said. “For today’s generation, it might seem, ‘What’s the point of doing it if everyone isn’t going to see it?’ ”

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