A 14-year-old boy could face criminal charges for accidentally supplying rat poison to a friend who died after snorting the powder, apparently believing it was cocaine, authorities said.
Prosecutors in the small Shasta County city of Anderson are reviewing whether to press charges against the teen in the death of 16-year-old Jimmy Lee Cramer, who died two days after being hospitalized for snorting the rat poison, Shasta County district attorney officials said.
Two other boys, ages 13 and 16, were also hospitalized in the Aug. 22 incident, Anderson Police Chief Michael Johnson said.
Although the youngest boy’s long-term health remains unknown, the older surviving boy suffered brain and muscle damage, Johnson said.
The small town, located outside Redding, is “horrified” by the incident, Johnson said.
“It’s just a big shock for the community,” he said.
Johnson said he doesn’t believe the boy was being malicious and just made a “stupid” mistake.
The boy told police that he retrieved the unmarked bottle of poison from his father’s garage, where it had been stored on a high shelf, Johnson said.
Authorities said word spread in the tightknit community that the 14-year-old had cocaine and that the other teens somehow got ahold of it and snorted the powder.
Detectives later submitted the bottle to a U.S. Department of Justice lab, which confirmed it was poison and that the boys had suffered from strychnine poisoning, he said.