More than anything else in this world, Carson Crimeni wanted to make friends and adapt. He had never been invited to a classmate's birthday party; he had never been on a slumber party. The hyperactivity and impulsivity caused by his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder made him a target. He did not tell his family, but last year, his peers say, the 14-year-old was bullied relentlessly – kicked, shot and mocked by classmates.
At the beginning of last school year, a girl of her age started to say that she would wet her pants in class. That spread like a fire. He was christened "Crackhead Carson" – so called because he had trouble staying still. That's all anyone ever called it, say students at Walnut Grove Secondary School, where Carson had just finished grade 8.
So the invitation to hang out with a group of much older teenagers on August 7th was a thrill. But the hot summer night ended with Carson's death due to an apparent overdose, as it was caused by people he thought were his friends. Instead of asking for help, they made him a meme.
In the videos, Carson appears strongly intoxicated and ingests drugs labeled as MDMA, a party drug also known as ecstasy. He is sweating through his gray sweatshirt, swaying to the music as a group of young men howls at him and calls him.
Videos are published on popular social media platforms for several hours that night, even if the boy overheats and loses the ability to speak.
The news of the accident, which is being investigated by the RCMP, was bounced through Walnut Grove, a rich commuter city in the Lower Mainland of B.C.
"It tears me to pieces," says Darrel Crimeni, grandfather Carson known as Grandfather, in the Italian tradition. "He was a beautiful boy. Why did they do it? It is pure evil. "
"For them, nothing seems real"
Shortly before 10:00 pm that Wednesday night, a teenage skateboarding house found Carson's shoes, the orange and black Adidas NMD soccer shoes his Grandfather had bought him a week earlier. Later, the boy saw Carson, who was lying on his back, wet with sweat. It was cold as stone, trembling violently and lying alone against the silver fence that surrounds the soccer field of Walnut Grove.
Carson's eyes had returned to his head. His bare feet were curled inwardly at odd angles, says Mitchell Pederson, 15, the skateboarder who saw Carson and warned the police. His breathing had an irregular and irregular start. For 20 long seconds, says Mitchell in an interview conducted with his mother's consent, no one came at all.
The Globe and Mail spent three days in the community, talking to Carson's family and six of his friends. The family has provided The Globe with Carson videos since that night.
Someone had thrown Carson's cell phone into a nearby garbage can. Those who published on his descent had vanished.
In a video, his face is a deep and burning red. His hair is wet with sweat. His eyes stick out of her face.
The young people around him burst into a hoarse laugh when he couldn't remember his name. Carson leans in, hugging himself. He looks terrified.
A photo taken later shows the boy, now without a shirt, his chest and face in a brilliant shade of pink, his hair wet, his blue eyes wide open. The sun is still shining.
The terrible tail was shot hours later, against a black night sky. In it, a teenager leans towards the ambulance that the boy attends. "Carson is almost dead lol" reads the caption.
Some in Walnut Grove are accusing deformed, new cultural pressures that parents barely understand. For the young people of Gen Z, who spend hours online every day, memes like those made by Carson – images or subtitled videos that must be funny or sarcastic – have become one of the most popular ways to communicate. But in a world where comments and followers are measures of popularity and dominates a sense of values "after all", the bar for scandalous behavior is constantly raised.
Carson's aunt, Diane Crimeni, 33, fears that by seeing everything through a screen, children are beginning to have problems discerning reality: "To them, nothing seems real.
"How many children sat at home watching Carson die before their eyes, but didn't they do anything?" Adds.
Still others see it as a centuries-old history. Carson had many classic features of a child at risk of bullying. It was perceived as different from its peers. It was not popular. He was looking for attention, often being annoying or trying to provoke others.
When Vancouver's criminal lawyer Kyla Lee was growing, Reena Virk was lured to a waterfront park north of Victoria, where the 14-year-old was beaten and left to die by a group of teenagers. Ms. Lee says she believes Carson's story is the equivalent of the post-millennial generation: "Find a child, get them completely drunk with the drug, film it, and then let it die." Those with Carson saw it as "entertainment," he adds, not a human being who needs help.
Ms. Lee, who has seen several videos of the night, says that people who filmed Carson could be accused of criminal negligence causing death. The act of filming is sufficient to show criminal disinterest in the child's life "in obvious distress," he says. The imbalance of power is compounded by a distinct age difference, he adds.
Carson was considerably younger than those who were identified on social media as if they had been there that night.
Meanwhile, Carson, who was foolish and childish and just over five feet tall, looked even younger than an eighth grade. He had chosen a Spider-Man game for his 14th birthday, a few weeks before he died.
He didn't always understand when he was sneakily bullied. He still had the round cheeks of a child and dragged Koko, his orange tabby, to bed with him every night. His voice had not yet broken.
He had a 19:00 curfew that he had lost only once before. In his last phone call home, at 4:22 pm on August 7th, he claimed to have gone to the cinema, knowing that his father, Aron Crimeni, would never let him go out to the skate park with older boys.
In the three hours before his death, Mr. Crimeni called his son 11 times, so he went around looking for him. Carson's grandfather was on foot.
It was Darrel, 71, who followed the red and flashing lights of a police car parked near the soccer field, about 800 meters from home.
While the police fought against an adult-sized oxygen mask, Darrel called his son, "He didn't breathe," he said. "She's in bad shape. Really bad shape."
Aron followed the ambulance on the Fraser River to the Ridge Meadows Hospital, where he found a doctor bent over Carson's chest, trying to revive him. "Don't go," his son pleaded. "Wake up."
At that point, however, the boy's heart had stopped. He had no pulse.
Fights in school
Aron, 45, who works as an apprentice electrician, fell in love at the instant of the child he called Johnny Carson – an appropriate name, it turned out. Since he could walk, all Carson ever wanted to do was make people laugh. Crimeni got full custody of him when he was four months old.
Crimeni and Carson shared the same pale blue eyes, the same sense of humor.
"We did everything together," says Crimeni, whose social circle is limited to a few friends online. They went for the sushi, they saw all the Marvel movies, they shot the circles together. "It is the only person I go out with."
Up to the age of 10, Carson and his father lived with Darrel in his sprawling home on a cultivated area in the Newton neighborhood of Surrey. Carson's aunt, Diane, painted the boy's nails and took him on a bicycle. Mr. Crimeni's other sister, Laura, was like a mother to him and kept buying most of Carson's clothes. "It was like it belonged to all of us," explains Diane.
But at school, Carson struggled intensely.
Darrel saw his work build Carson's self-esteem.
He always signed Carson for new sports – football, hockey, swimming, skiing, golf – in the hope of alleviating his anxiety and hyperactivity and helping him find a passion. When he started to show interest in the pool, his grandfather drove around the Lower Land until he found a "family" pool hall, where he brought Carson every Thursday.
For Grade 5, the Crimenis moved with their families to Walnut Grove, where Darrel bought a town house exactly halfway between the elementary school and Walnut Grove Secondary. Aron rented nearby. They chose the community so that Carson could attend his excellent schools and drive him away from drugs and gangs that colonized central Surrey.
But Carson's problems followed him there.
A group of six kids who spoke with The Globe claim to be the only children who accepted Carson at Walnut Grove Secondary. The Globe granted them anonymity due to their age and sensitivity to the issue.
They are players who don't fit the fantastic guys at the top of the pecking order of Walnut Grove. They spent countless hours online with Carson playing an adventurous survival game. Seeing how badly he was treated by those in his class, they tried to look for him.
They come from intact middle class homes and claim that Carson has remained in their homogeneous burg, where two-thirds of adults have post-secondary qualifications and the average home costs just under $ 1 million.
Carson came from the center of Langley, where his single father rented a $ 700 one-bedroom apartment a month. Until recently, he lived with his retired grandfather, who lives on a fixed income in a community where 70% of adults are married and the average family income exceeds $ 112,000.
The six guys who talked to The Globe smoked the pot with Carson, but they say "there's no way" of trying hard drugs before August 7th.
This summer, however, witnessed worrying behavior: some older boys unknown to them were presumably "ecologizing" Carson – making him so tall with marijuana that he would become white and sick.
A vulnerable boy
In Walnut Grove, a strong police presence drove the skaters from the park where Carson's night began; has become a memorial of luck. Every day people visit him again. Some leave flowers. Many tears shed. Parents bring their children, reminding them to defend their friends, to call the police when something is wrong.
"He was vulnerable, gullible," says Aron. "He thought these guys were his friends. He trusted them. "