OMAHA, Neb. – A death of a 19-year-old Nebraska man who shot himself in the head while in an online video chat room has been ruled an accident, police said Monday.
Bellevue police decided Trevor George's early March death was not a suicide after interviewing witnesses and reviewing computer records, Capt. David Stukenholtz said. Police also determined George was not coerced into shooting himself when he held a revolver up to his head and pulled the trigger.
Several people who were in the Tinychat video chat room George was logged into that night told police they previously had seen him put a gun to his head, Stukenholtz said.
"He has a history of simulating this event," Stukenholtz said. "This time, for whatever reason, there was a bullet in the chamber of the gun that he did not get out of there."
The anonymous nature of the chat room created challenges for investigators and made it almost impossible for some of the people who witnessed the shooting online to report it, police said. Most of the people in the chat room didn't appear to know George's real name or where he lived. Some of the witnesses contacted by Bellevue police live in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and elsewhere in the United States.
"Even if you knew his name, you would have to know where to send help," Stukenholtz said.
The shooting eventually was reported by a Florida man who had been logged into the chat before the shooting. The man logged back into the chat the next morning and found people talking about the shooting.
George was a student at Bellevue University at the time of his death and lived with his parents in the Omaha suburb of Bellevue. Police have said his parents were home at the time of the shooting, but did not hear the shot and weren't aware of their son's death until officers arrived to check out the Florida's man's report.
A message seeking comment from George's parents was not immediately returned Monday.
George's death was not the first to be witnessed in an online chat room.
A 19-year-old Florida college student committed suicide in 2008 by taking a drug overdose while people watched him online and some egged him on. Some viewers called police, but it was too late to save the young man. In 2007, a 42-year-old man in England hanged himself while broadcasting to an Internet chat room via webcam. A chat room user notified police, who found him dead.