CAMDEN, New Jersey – Jesse Coltrane exchanged instant messages and phone calls with a despondent California teenager, then became startled by the picture on his webcam: The young man who had been discussing suicide was starting to cut the skin of his forearm with a razor blade.
The teen stopped answering the phone and logged off his computer.
That's when Coltrane called Sacramento police, who quickly went in search of the young man.
By the time officers found the 18-year-old, he had decided not to go through with the attempt, said police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong.
"Ultimately we're glad the person in New Jersey took the effort to contact us," he said Wednesday. "He did exactly what we would've wanted him to do."
Coltrane's swift action stood in contrast to other Internet users who did nothing last year as they watched a Florida man kill himself by overdosing on pills in front of his webcam.
About a month ago, the California teen asked to become Coltrane's friend on the social-networking Web site MySpace. Such requests from strangers are not unusual for the 21-year-old Coltrane, who runs a modeling and entertainment agency and has more than 500 friends listed on the Web site.
The two got to know each other with a few phone calls and talked mostly about music, Coltrane said.
But the instant message Monday evening was unexpected: he said he was thinking about committing something that would hurt a lot of people and then admitted he was thinking about suicide.
When Coltrane learned that, he dropped out of his online business meeting and communicated with him for about seven hours by telephone, instant message and webcam.
At one point, he typed on his laptop computer: "You are a value to this Earth, Life and as a Person. Learn to Live and Love yourself."
But with the webcam trained on the younger man, Coltrane could see that the message was not being received. Toying with the razor blade, the teen wondered aloud what would happen if he sliced deeper.
Coltrane said the teenager eventually apologized for starting the conversation and told him, "You live your life," before logging off his computer. After that, he would not answer the phone.
Coltrane dialed Sacramento police, giving them what he knew about the teen — just a first name and phone number. It was enough to track him down early Tuesday.
When police arrived at the door, the young man's family did not know about the crisis.
The teen's arms had the cuts Coltrane described, and he was taken for medical evaluation.
As he counseled the younger man, Coltrane said he thought about the case in Pembroke Pines, Florida, last November when others watched and commented online as a 19-year-old college student killed himself.
To avert a similar tragedy, Coltrane realized, he was the only defense: "He only had one viewer, and I had to do something about it."