A video of men playing with the limp body of their friend, who later died of a suspected overdose, showed “a blatant disregard for human life,” the Porter County coroner said.
However, the county sheriff said it doesn’t appear any laws were broken in the process.
Police confirmed Monday they investigated the video posted to social media Sunday.
The video shows a man tying cords to the wrists of a seated man, whose head is slumped forward, before lifting his arms up and down, like a puppet. A man off camera sings, "You've got a friend in me."
The other man slaps the apparently unconscious man, shakes his head and pumps his chest in a CPR-like motion, before manipulating his mouth and singing, "You've got a friend in me."
The video was provided to The Times by a woman, Heather Anderson, of Wheeler, who was Facebook friends with the man she said posted it to the site at around 6:40 a.m. Sunday morning, with the caption: "One of my close friends passed away this morning. Please stop doing drugs. #fentanyl."
She said she commented on the video, asking if the seemingly unconscious man was OK and saying she would alert authorities. The post-er messaged her back, around 7 a.m., asking her not to and claiming his friend was home and very much alive. The man asserted the video was meant to be a wake-up call to his friend about his drug use.
The man also deleted the video at that time, she said, but she still had it up on her phone and filmed it with another smartphone.
After viewing the video, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris confirmed the apparently unconscious man was 21-year-old Kyle Kearby, of South Haven, who was pronounced dead at 1:41 p.m. Sunday at Porter Regional Hospital. Harris suspected it was a drug overdose but said a toxicology report wouldn't be available for two weeks. He could not tell whether Kearby was dead or alive in the video.
"That was probably the most blatant disregard for human life that I've seen in my life," Harris said.
Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds said his office responded to a call at approximately 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Kearby's residence in South Haven, after a parent found him in bed, not breathing, covered in vomit.
He still had a pulse, and paramedics administered naloxone, the opioid overdose-reversal drug, though they weren't sure what he had used other than alcohol, Reynolds said. Emergency room staff also tried to revive Kearby, to no avail.
Reynolds said Kearby's father reported Kearby came home at around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, and walked into the house and went to bed. Reynolds said the video was taken at another location earlier that morning.
The men who made the video told police they were "horseplaying" and had done similar things before, and dropped Kearby off at home that morning, Reynolds said.
"We're really comfortable to say there was no foul play whatsoever," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said Kearby may have taken a pill that night, though he may have died from alcohol poisoning and choking on his own vomit.
A family member of Kearby's who would only speak to The Times on the condition of anonymity said she suspects he was given fentanyl-laced Xanax. Fentanyl is an opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin that is behind the spike in drug deaths in recent years.
"Clearly in that video they should have called for emergency help immediately," she said. "It was the most ignorant thing I've ever seen in my life."
In the video, a man off camera says, "Dude, you've got to keep him awake. This is how Lil Peep died for real, for real, except Lil Peep stopped breathing."
Lil Peep was a rapper who died last November in Tucson, Arizona, from an overdose of fentanyl and generic Xanax. He was 21.
"Wow, dude, I f------ never thought that tonight would come to this. This is crazy," the man off camera says in the video. "He must have ate some blood pressure medication, dude. You've got to save Kearby's life."
The family member said Kearby was a good guy — funny, outgoing — who would do anything for others.
"He was better than that," she said. "This is all very degrading. It's awful. I don't even have words for it."
Check back at nwi.com for updates as they become available.