Death of Brandon Vedas
Brandon Carl Vedas (April 21, 1981 – January 12, 2003), also known by his nickname ripper on IRC, of Phoenix, Arizona, United States, was a computer enthusiast, recreational drug user and member of the Shroomery.org community who died of an overdose of prescription drugs while discussing what he was doing via chat and webcam. His death led to debate about the responsibilities and roles of online communities in life-threatening situations.
The videoChat session began when Vedas logged into the IRC channel and he announced “i got a grip of drugs” and indicated that his webcam was up, and that chatters were welcome to view his “grip of drugs” and his subsequent ingestion thereof. While some of the substances were illicit, most of them had apparently been obtained through legitimate prescriptions for treatment of various illnesses from which Vedas was said to have suffered.
Vedas then began consuming psilocybe mushrooms, which had been stored in a prescription medication bottle. As the chat session progressed, one of the users in the channel, grphish, noted “that's a lot of klonopin” and this is thought to be when Vedas consumed 8 mg of clonazepam. Vedas continued by showing the webcam viewers what would be one of four bottles of methadone that he would consume over the course of the session, and, after noting this on the channel, proceeded to consume an entire bottle (reportedly 80 mg of methadone). After a brief respite, Vedas then consumed 110 mg of propranolol (Inderal), two Vicodin tablets, and 120 mg temazepam, which seem to have been taken in between descriptions given on the IRC channel.
During this process, Vedas maintained that this was "usual weekend behavior" for him and that he had consumed similar quantities of the same substances on previous occasions. "I told u I was hardcore" was one of the last things Vedas typed, a phrase often used sarcastically on internet message boards and discussion sites.
Upon consuming the remainder of the original batch of drugs from the beginning of the webcam session, Vedas began to retrieve and prepare to consume even more drugs that he had stashed throughout the room. It was at this point that the users of the channel began to voice their concerns that Vedas was taking things too far. Some pleaded with him to stop while others recommended that he seek immediate medical attention. After taking another large quantity of the same drugs he had already ingested, Vedas gave instructions that if anything were to go wrong, that they should try to contact him by calling his cell phone, and if that did not work, they should call the local authorities and give them the license plate number of his car, which was parked in his driveway and could easily be seen from the street.
When Vedas lost consciousness, users of the chatroom considered informing the police and asking that they trace Vedas's cellphone in order to locate him. However, the members of the channel were hesitant to contact the authorities for fear of involving Vedas and/or themselves in a police investigation. According to the chat logs, one user had even called 9-1-1 and asked the group if he was doing the right thing. After an emphatic "NO" response from another user, the user said "I talked my way out of it." and claimed that the police told them that there was no way to find Vedas with the information available. His mother discovered his body in the afternoon of January 12, 2003.
According to Vedas's brother, the information Brandon gave to the users in the chat, as well as the address in his domain name registration would have been enough for the police to locate Brandon, which he confirmed with local police. Later, Vedas's brother said about the incident, "It seems like the group mentality really contributed to it. These people treat it like somehow it's not the real world. They forget it's not just words on a screen."
- BBC (2003). "Net grief for online 'suicide'", BBC News, (Technology), 4 February 2003. Accessed July 23, 2010.
- Kennedy, Helen (2003). "HE TAKES FATAL OD AS INTERNET PALS WATCH Chatroom vultures egged him to pop more Rx pills", Daily News, (News), February 2, 2003. Accessed July 23, 2010.
- Craig, Olga (2003). "Chatmates watched internet suicide", Telegraph.co.uk, (News > World News > North America > USA), February 9, 2003. Accessed December 17, 2008.
- Memorial site created by his brother
- "Brandon Carl Vedas." The Arizona Republic. obituary.