A 12-year-old Santa Monica boy who was active with the Boy Scouts and enjoyed playing baseball died last month, two days after he had apparently engaged in an activity known as the “choking game,” police said.
Erik Robinson, a sixth-grader at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, was in full cardiac arrest when police arrived at his home in the 800 block of 18th Street, where he was found by his mother, Sgt. Jay Trisler said. Robinson was transported to a local hospital, where he was taken off life support and pronounced dead April 22nd, Trisler said.
A memorial service for Robinson was held Thursday, April 29th.
Police classified the death as accidental, saying that preliminary investigation of the scene and subsequent interviews revealed that the victim had engaged in what is called the choking game. The object of the activity is asphyxiation, which results by applying pressure that restricts the blood flow to the brain, creating a desired euphoric sensation when the pressure is released, police explained.
The potentially deadly activity has been known to occur among youths across the country, but Trisler said Robinson’s death is the first to be related to such an incident in Santa Monica.
According to the Web site of Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play (GASP), the activity is “an act of suffocating on purpose.”
“The choking game is a misunderstood activity causing death and suffering for thousands of families worldwide,” the site states. “It often begins with high-achieving teens choking each other as a way to get high without the risk of getting caught with drugs or alcohol. It ends with thousands of kids dying or suffering permanent brain damage each year.”
Trisler said Robinson had never indicated to his family that he was taking part in the harmful activity and police are working with the schools and parents to better educate the community about the problem.
Marolyn Freedman, director of pupil services for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, said everyone at Lincoln Middle School was heartbroken to hear of the death of Robinson, who was remembered as a “very happy young man.”
“He was a kid who was just full of life and well liked by his peers,” Freedman said.
Lincoln Middle School Principal Suzanne Webb visited all sixth grade classes to inform the students of Robinson’s death and sent letters to all sixth grade parents, Freedman said. The school additionally provided several counselors on campus and had two “comfort rooms” available for grieving students, she said.
Robinson had participated in a school program sponsored by the Los Angeles County Bar Association that trains students to be peer mediators, Freedman noted. Santa Monica police Det. Maury Sumlin said that in addition to being a Boy Scout and playing Little League baseball, Robinson hoped to attend West Point, where he recently toured, and had aspirations for a career in law enforcement.
Police encourage parents and guardians who may not be familiar with the choking game and other dangerous activities to talk with their children and find out what they know.
“The best thing for parents is to communicate with their children,” Trisler said.
Sumlin said Robinson’s mother has been in contact with the GASP campaign and has expressed interest in the education process to prevent other event-related deaths from happening.