Vile internet trolls are tormenting the grieving family and friends of an Iraq War veteran who killed himself on a Facebook live stream.
Ronnie McNutt’s loved ones watched in horror as he shot himself during the broadcast as they tried to help him.
Sick creeps are now bombarding them with cruel messages and trying to trick them into viewing the video again by sending GIFs and links to the footage disguised as something else, friend Joshua Steen told Mirror Online.
Mr Steen, who is now taking on social media giants with a campaign for reform, begged Mr McNutt “don’t do this” before he watched his friend die.
Video of the suicide is still being reposted on social media and some clips have remained online for days, said Mr Steen, who has led the criticism of Facebook for failing to delete the live stream while Mr McNutt was still alive.
Have you been affected by the incident? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr Steen said: “They’ve sent links and videos and images to his friends and family. They’ve sent screenshots and GIFs and a meme that was created pretty much instantly.
“People have flooded his Facebook account and his Instagram with all of these comments.
“I am in every way actively avoiding every visual reference to it, that I can, because it’s everywhere.
“People, trolls across the internet, have tried to trick me into opening things in direct messages and email and GIFs, and auto-playing videos.
“It’s almost caught me once or twice, but experiencing that in real time, our brains have this way of rewriting themselves around trauma.”
He added: “We have to hold these social media companies accountable for situations like this and that’s our goal, is to get these companies to the table to have a conversation to remember that Ronnie McNutt was a real person who made a real difference in people’s lives
“He was someone’s son and their brother and their uncle.
“Those people that related to him in that way watched him die and Facebook could have prevented that. Facebook could have intervened and stopped that.”
Mr McNutt, a Toyota autoworker and churchgoer, was drunk when he ended his life at his home in New Albany, Mississippi, on the night of August 31. In the days afterwards, the video went viral on the internet and young children were tricked into watching it.
The US Army veteran, who suffered from PTSD after serving in Iraq between June 2007 and March 2008, and struggled with depression, had previously sought help.
He was hit hard by the loss of his father and namesake, Cecil Ronald “Ronnie” McNutt, who died of cancer in February 2018, and he and his girlfriend had recently broken up.
Just over two weeks before his death, he marked what would have been his dad’s 69th birthday, posting a photo on Facebook and writing: “Today would have been dad’s 69th birthday. He was a powerhouse of a man. And I miss him every day. Our family just isn’t complete without him.”
They are now buried in the same cemetery.
It wasn’t unusual for Mr McNutt to start a live stream and “ramble” or argue with viewers about things such as religion or pop culture, but the night he killed himself he was in obvious distress from the beginning.
Mr Steen, who met Mr McNutt in the local theatre scene and worked with him on a podcast called JustUs Geeks, said: “In his situation that night, it was the perfect storm… of this guy who goes into this live stream with mental health issues, he is drunk, there is a weapon in the home, and he begins to talk.
“He didn’t start that live stream to commit suicide, that wasn’t the goal.
Click to play
Tap to play
“People began to pile into this live stream that were either friends or casual acquaintances, that made the situation worse. All of these people that had known him forever were reaching out to him saying, ‘I love you and care about you’. That gave him the ammunition to say, ‘Did you? You never showed it to me’.
“And then on top of that the local police department made their presence known but wouldn’t intervene.”
The police department has said it decided not to storm Mr McNutt’s apartment because he was armed with a rifle and the risk of a deadly confrontation was too high.
After Mr McNutt’s rifle misfired about 40 minutes into the stream, he likely knew he would likely be arrested and admitted for a psychiatric evaluation, said Mr Steen.
He added: “If Facebook had disconnected the stream it would have broken this perfect storm. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have committed suicide, but that break in that conversation would have been enough to change the situation.”
When the gun misfired, a podcast listener contacted Mr Steen to tell him what was happening.
As he realised his friend was in distress he reported the live stream to Facebook and tried to call Mr McNutt, who was sitting behind a desk inside his home.
But Mr McNutt declined the calls and ignored messages from people telling him they loved him and urging him not to harm himself.
In one message, Mr Steen pleaded with his friend: “God dammit, McNutt. Don’t do this.”
Mr Steen said: “I watched him decline my calls. I reached out to him because I have always been able to make Ronnie laugh.
“My initial thought was if I could just get him to talk to me for five minutes maybe I can break this tension that he’s having.
“The person that declined my calls was the other side of Ronnie, the other side that was controlled by the mental health issues, the PTSD, and obviously alcohol was involved.
“I do wish that he had answered the phone, but I do know there was nothing else I could have done.
“The only person who could have intervened in that situation was Ronnie.”
When Mr McNutt killed himself, police officers were outside his home and attempting to communicate with him.
Mr Steen said he eventually got a response from Facebook, telling him the video did not violate its community guidelines, about 90 minutes after the suicide.
The video stayed online for almost three hours after Mr McNutt’s death before it was finally taken down, but by then people had copied it and started reposting it, he added.
Mr Steen is now taking on social media giants such as Facebook.
He started a campaign called #ReformForRonnie, which calls on social media firms to respond swiftly and halt the spread of horrific videos, threats, hate and disinformation.
Mr Steen said: “Ronnie was a very unique guy. Everyone probably has someone a lot like Ronnie in their lives who is just a mix of all kinds of things.
“He was a very compassionate guy, he really loved and cared for people.
“If someone needed anything at all Ronnie would give that to them. He was very eccentric, when he really enjoyed something he went full force at it.”
He added: “There is a real chance that Ronnie is going to make a difference enough that impacts the world and the internet forever.”
A spokesman for Facebook, which also owns Instagram, said: “We removed the original video from Facebook last month on the day it was streamed and have used automation technology to remove copies and uploads since that time.
“Our thoughts remain with Ronnie’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
The Samaritans is available 24/7 if you need to talk. You can contact them for free by calling 116 123, email email@example.com or head to the website to find your nearest branch. You matter.
Send your news and stories to us firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and WhatsApp: +447747873668.
Before you go...
Democratic norms are being stress-tested all over the world, and the past few years have thrown up all kinds of questions we didn't know needed clarifying – how long is too long for a parliamentary prorogation? How far should politicians be allowed to intervene in court cases? To monitor these issues as closely as we have in the past we need your support, so please consider donating to The Climax News Room.