Throughout his brief life, Carson Crimeni craved but never found the support and friendship of his peers.
On Thursday, more than 600 people filled the Church in the Valley in Langley, B.C., to remember the kind-eyed, goofy boy who loved to cook and adored animals. Carson, who had just turned 14 in July, died on Aug. 7 after onlookers watched him become delirious leading up to a suspected drug overdose.
In eulogies, friends and family echoed the sorrow and outrage that continues to ricochet around the community.
“It hurts me to think of the pain my brother was in in his last few hours of his life,” Carson’s sister, Bella Griffiths, 16, told the crowd. It included dozens of teens from his high school and his old hockey teammates from the Langley Eagles, who came dressed in their white, home jerseys.
“His life was taken when he was just trying to fit in,” Bella added before addressing her brother directly: “Carson, I hope you can see how many people are here today that love and care for you.”
Next Tuesday was supposed to be Carson’s first day of Grade 9. But he died after a group of older boys he mistook for friends shot video and taunted him while he was manic and delirious, in the hours leading up to his death. The RCMP is investigating the circumstances of his death.
Pastor Mike Boulin told the crowd he was “angry" at the inaction of the young members of his community who were with Carson the day he died but did not call for help, leaving him to die alone.
“We have a responsibility to make our community safe,” he said.
Carson’s father Aron Crimeni, 45, attempted to bring some light and levity to the proceedings, saying Carson’s greatest joy came from cracking up other people.
Mr. Crimeni, an apprentice electrician who raised the boy along with his own father, recalled how his son’s antics began as a toddler, when Carson’s eyes welled up like he was going to cry after his dad thought he had closed the fridge door on his tiny outstretched hand.
“He looked up at me and he laughed,” said Mr. Crimeni as he choked back tears remembering his mischievous boy’s first prank.
“Thanks for being my best friend, my closest friend,” he said, addressing his son.
Lucas Longoria, 16, said outside the service that his friend Carson “talked about his dad all the time. “They’d stay up late playing video games and watching movies. They did everything together.”
Carson’s friends, a group of shaggy-haired teen boys who met Carson playing video games online, came dressed all in black: jogging pants, button-down shirts and runners. They said they’d tried looking out for Carson at Walnut Grove Secondary School, where he was the target of bullies.
Carson’s mother, Chantell Griffiths, was too shaken to speak. Instead, she asked those gathered to reflect while listening to Tracy Chapman’s plaintive song Change.
“What chain reaction, what cause and effect,” the lyrics say, “makes you turn around, makes you forgive and forget, makes you change?”
Outside the church, Hakim Bhamji, 14, said he didn’t know Carson, but that the boy’s desire to do anything to fit in mirrored his own actions during an earlier, darker period of his life.
"I was with the wrong people and wanting to do what everybody else was doing because I felt like they liked me for it," said Hakim, whose mother consented to his interview being published. "Carson just reminded me of myself a lot."
One of Carson’s friends, who was with him at the skate park on the day he died but left in the early evening, said that at the funeral, he saw two young people who were also at the park on Aug. 7.
One was “bawling her eyes out,” said the 15-year-old, whose name The Globe and Mail is keeping confidential because he has been speaking with police about the events.
“I felt very unsettled,” Carson’s friend said.
Langley School District would not comment on reports that youth from Walnut Grove Secondary School were involved in the incident. The district said it will be reviewing its bullying, substance abuse and digital-citizenship policies in the wake of Carson’s death.
Meanwhile,the RCMP’s “large and complex" investigation into Carson’s death is continuing, said Corporal Holly Largy with the Langley detachment.
The tip line is still being monitored. So far, more than 40 witness statements have been taken.
Minutes before the funeral began, candles still flickered beside more than 200 bouquets of flowers at the skatepark where Carson spent his last day alive. The lip of the bowl is ringed with photos of Carson, an old ball cap and his favourite snacks: nacho chips and Mountain Dew.
Next to spray-painted messages urging people to "Please stay strong,” was a new piece of graffiti calling for justice.
“Turn yourselvs in. Be a human, have a heart.”
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