A friend of the US Army vet who killed himself with a gunshot to the head during a Facebook livestream said he tried desperately to prevent the suicide – and accused the social media giant of failing to stop the video from being shared online, according to a report.
“Facebook could’ve stopped this and didn’t,” Josh Steen told Heavy.com about his 33-year-old pal from Mississippi, Ronnie McNutt, who killed himself on Aug. 31 amid unconfirmed reports that he had lost his job and broken up with his girlfriend.
Steen said he believes Facebook is “directly responsible” for the horrific footage being shared online and going viral.
“Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social platforms could ban accounts, IPs, and stop the spread of this video. YouTube can flag you for using two seconds of a copyrighted song, but can’t seem to filter out my friend ending his life,” he told the outlet.
“It does not make sense,” Steen added.
McNutt, who worked at a Toyota plant in Blue Springs, New Albany, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving tours in the Iraq War, Steen told Heavy.
The two men were both involved in local theater and worked together on a podcast, JustUs Geeks.
“He didn’t seem to be the same guy that left for Iraq once he exited the service. I spent many a late night in our studio, via text message, and in person talking with him about life and his struggles,” Steen told the outlet.
“Mental health issues are very, very real, and I honestly think that there are a lot of people who struggle with all areas of mental illness who let it go untreated. Or treat it with other things, it seems,” he said.
Steen said he strongly believes that McNutt didn’t begin the livestream planning to kill himself on Facebook Live, where he often went to “ramble” – but that in this case, he was “incredibly drunk amid his relationship issues.
The grieving friend said he found out about Steen’s Facebook post from a podcast listener who told him about the live event.
“I started watching and gauged the situation. I tried roundabout ways to get associated friends to reach others to prevent what inevitably happened from happening,” Steen told Heavy.
“All of these people were commenting and trying to reach out to him, and he was so upset and inebriated that he was just being incredibly hurtful to them and himself,” he continued.
“I tried multiple times to call him, from my cell phone and our phone at the theater — both numbers he would easily recognize. I watched him pick his phone up, think for a second, and then decline my calls,” Steen said.
“I really thought that if I could just get him to break his focus for just a second it would be all right. His laugh always made me laugh, and I’m glad that I have our archives to back through to hear it whenever I want to now,” he added.
Steen said he reported the livestream to Facebook while McNutt – who accidentally misfired his gun — was still alive and talking.
“No response from Facebook,” he said, adding that police had been called and officers were standing outside McNutt’s apartment watching the livestream, according to Heavy.
A New Albany police official confirmed to The Post that officers had been dispatched to the scene but referred further questions to the chief, who did not immediately return a call.
After McNutt’s death at 10:30 p.m., Steen said he received a response from Facebook 11:51 p.m. that read in part: “This post will remain on Facebook because we only remove content that goes against our Community Standards. Our standards don’t allow things that encourage suicide or self-injury.”
Steen said he believes it was after 1 a.m. when Facebook removed the footage — but by that time, he had already seen it shared in at least one private group.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a message from The Post.
In a statement to the BBC, Fadebook 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,” it added.
Steen said he has “lost a whole lot of faith in humanity this week.”
“I get that a lot of the reasons his video is making its way around is because of bots and trolls, but a lot of real people are continuing to share this video,” he told Heavy.
“I watched my friend die, with police and his friends outside of the apartment, and for what? Him to be a meme? A joke? To have this horrific image that I will never unsee be hidden inside of cat videos on the internet as some kind of a sick prank? It is absolutely outrageous.”
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