MEEKER I “Come on, try it…I dare you.” This was a quote from an episode of Criminal Minds (Risky Business) about a dangerous game called the “choking game.” The FBI team discovers the quote on a website used to convince teens to play the game. “It’s the ‘good’ kids’ high,” says one of the FBI agents. Many good kids may see this game as an innocent, harmless way to fit in.
In reality this game is not at all harmless.
When Sarah Pacatte was young, she was enticed into playing the game by kids from a different town. This game was called the “hyperventilation game.” She only did it once, unimpressed by the high it was supposed to give. She thought it was an unimportant part of her past.
Until it killed her son.
Gabriel Harry Mordecai was a twin. He was a very caring, active young man who loved everything about his life and he was Sarah Pacatte’s son.
Gabriel had an older brother and a twin brother. He loved the outdoors and snakes. He was an honor student who wanted to go to college, then head to the Marines Special Forces. His idea of bliss was someday to retire and care for snakes.
That all changed when Gabriel began playing this game.
One day Sarah overheard her twin sons talking about the game. She told them to “stop — it could kill them,” thinking she was exaggerating; not knowing the game actually could.
A while later, while fishing with their older brother, Gabriel found a rope and started to chase Samuel around. Samuel told him to stop and tried to convince him to throw the rope away.
Gabriel snuck the rope home.
Once inside his bedroom, he tied the grimy cord to his top bunk and wrapped it around his neck. He didn’t tie it — just loosely looped it. His brother discovered him and called frantically for his mother. Sarah rushed in and when she slipped her fingers underneath the rope, it fell away. The slight pressure had been deadly, though.
Gabriel’s twin brother, Samuel, called 911 while his mom tried to do CPR. The following is a transcript of the 911 call:
“Hi, I have an emergency,” said Samuel, overwhelmed in tears.
“OK, what is your emergency?” The 911 lady asked, trying to keep calm.
“My little brother might be dead.”
“Your husband might be dead?” She said, not understanding.
“No, my brother.”
“Your brother. OK, is he there with you?”
“Uh, uh, yeah.”
“But we think he might be dead. I don’t know.”
“OK, hold on a second. How old are you? How old are you?”
“OK, where is your brother at? Where is your brother at?” Repeating herself to try and get Samuel to understand.
“He’s in our room.”
“He’s in your room. Is he breathing? Are you there by yourself?”
“No, I’m with my mother.”
“OK, I want you to stay on the line with me.”
“OK, ok. I need you to get an ambulance right away.”
“OK, why do you think he’s dead?”
“Because there’s a rope around his neck tied to a bunk bed and he’s all purple and stuff.”
“OK, how old is your brother?”
“Thirteen, we’re twins.”
“OK, you’re twins and he’s 13, too?”
Gabriel died 18 days after he was taken to the hospital. He was just 13-years-old.
In another part of the country, Kevin Tork was playing the same game. His parents described him as a boy who would do anything for anyone.
When walking his sister home, a truck drove past them and yelled something at them. The truck drove up a hill and turned around. The passenger had a knife, Kevin pulled his sister behind him and the car drove off.
When Kevin and his family were having lunch downtown, a lady came to Kevin’s dad asking for money. He said he would not give her money but offered his meal. Kevin pulled out a $10 bill he earned mowing lawns and gave it to the lady. Though his parents said she would probably use it to buy drugs, Kevin believed it would help her.
On Monday, March 30, 2009, Kevin took a belt for the bathrobe he had gotten from his dad. He tied it around his neck. When his sister walked into the room the choking game had taken effect. His heart was still beating but he died on the way to the hospital. He was just 15-years-old.
Both sets of parents have had to fight through a horrible tragedy.
“I think of him every minute, of every hour, of every day,” says Ken Tork.
“I think of him all the time, he is still my boy,” says Sarah Pacatte.
They both prayed and looked to God for help. Something they didn’t do is crawl in a corner and give up. They have done everything they can to tell about the horrors of this game.
Have you played the game?
Editor’s note: According to his teacher Kathleen Kelley, Shepperd contacted and interviewed parents of the choking victims and one of the parents, Mr. Torp has agreed to come to Meeker to give a high school and community presentation on the choking game.