Last month, Boca Raton was rocked with one of those stories that keep parents sleepless at night: a high schooler cut down too soon. But when the first reports on the June 13 death began circulating online, drugs were fingered as a possible culprit. Since then, the story has ballooned online into a kind of news-story Frankenstein -- pieced together with facts, Tweets, comment section speculation, rumor, and knee-jerk reactions.
So much so that right now, it's hard to discern what actually happened from the fallout noise -- although, in the end, this is clear: A young kid who shouldn't have died did, leaving behind stricken family and friends.
Police fielded a call around 8:30 on Thursday night, June 13. When authorities arrived on the beach near 3000 S. Ocean Blvd., they found 15-year-old Zachary Denaro unresponsive. The boy was taken to Boca Raton Regional Hospital, then Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, where he passed away. "We are waiting on the results from the Medical Examiner's Office to determine the cause of death," Boca Raton Officer Sandra Boonenberg wrote last week in an email to New Times. "The investigation is ongoing."
By June 17, BocaNewsNow.com had a report up on the incident, filled with new details from "tipsters." The site reported Denaro had been on the beach with friends when he tried an "acid-like" substance. There, the high schooler may or may not have gotten into a physical altercation with another individual on the beach before losing consciousness. Quoting the tipster, the site stated Denaro "tried a new drug similar to acid. He had a bad trip, ended up in a physical altercation, then a coma."
But the situation only got muddier after the BocaNews story hit. Like the spontaneous memorials that flower up on the patch of sidewalk where street violence has happened, the posting's comment section became a clearinghouse for scraps of info, testimony from friends, and even a possible confession. Seventy-nine comments would fill the page before administrators shut down the section on June 20.
"Rest in pardise my angle I love u Zach have a fun time with God and Jesus ill see u soon GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTEN I LOVE U ZACH RIP 06-15-13," a typical comment ran. Another: "Omg zach i met you at the movie and mall the other day and you were so sweet and I miss you so much zach
But on a June 18, a commenter made the following statements:
I would like to clearly establish that zach willingly took the acid knowing it was 25i-NBOMe then asked one of the girls with us for another tab of acid, Hes not new to this hes done this before. Zach is not new to taking more than one dose of any psychedelic. And the "alleged attacker" is me. Zach attacked me and i defended myself by restraining him I did not "attack and rob him with such force" If you're gonna make a news report on something make sure your fucking story is straight. I loved zach and i miss him dearly I wish that nothing happened that day the way it did but clearly, The universe had bigger and better plans for him. I love you zach you will forever be in my memory I wish i could've done more to save you R.I.P,
Ha like you know the story i was forced to leave by the property owner i wasn't allowed back on the beach because we got into an altercation. Zach was still up and active for 30 minutes after i was asked to leave. I was not there to see him have a seizure. Ounce again get your story straight. 5 real stories, but 2,500 opinions.
There is a whole investigation going on the police know i gave it to him and they know what it was. Glad for your concern though i have already taken responsibility for my actions. Thanks
As you can imagine, someone elbowing into an online conversation about an untimely teenage death claiming to have been involved didn't go over well with other posters. But were the statements legit?
With the police zippered tight on the details of the investigation, it's hard to tell right now. New Times' attempts to contact Denaro family members and friends were unsuccessful, as well as our effort to track down the commenter, who may be a juvenile. But the comment's reference to 25I-NBOMe is significant. Again -- police haven't tied the substance to Denaro's death, but the relatively new drug has already been linked to a few deaths.
According to the Vaults of Erowid (the Wikipedia of psychedelics), 25I-NBOMe is an unscheduled chemical analog that first hit the drug scene around 2010. The substance bombards a user with the standard psychedelic cocktail of eye fireworks, euphoria, and increased association, as well as possible paranoia and confusion. "25-I-NBOMe is extremely potent," the site says. "An active dose is a barely visible amount of powder. It is being sold on blotter as LSD (Acid) across the United States and internationally."
The write-up suggests this isn't user-friendly stuff. 25-I-NBOMe has been linked to a handful of deaths, including the passing of a 21-year-old at a Louisiana music festival last August and a 17-year-old Orlando girl in April. Unfortunately, terribly, it's fairly common when a new substance starts making the rounds and no one knows what they're dealing with.
"Usually what happens in a lot of these deaths is kids don't know how to do the dosage correctly," one longtime psychedelic user tells New Times. "People can die from Aspirin if they don't know the right dosage."
Like we said, right now it's unclear whether 25-I-NBOMe was linked to Denaro's death or not. (Interestingly, the substance was included on the list of chemicals Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi banned via emergency order back in December -- a knee-jerk reaction to public ire over synthetic drug use).
The investigation continues. We'll keep you posted on new developments. Otherwise, the steady stream of tributes and grief can be found all over social media sites. Here's one that about sums it all up:
RIP Zachary Denaro Way too young dude, shit like this shouldn't happen to anyone
— David moreshead (@Davidmoreshead) June 16, 2013
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