News

MV teen death ruled a suicide

Boy's father also killed during incident that led to evacuations

The death of a teenage boy in an incident that led to an apartment evacuation at 2025 California St. in September has been ruled a suicide.

William Liu, a 17-year-old Mountain View resident, committed suicide through "thiosulfate" toxic gas inhalation after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide, according to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office.

James Liu, his father, was also found dead inside the apartment, though his death was ruled accidental.

The hydrogen sulfide gas, which is harmful to humans, spread outside the apartment and triggered an evacuation on Sept. 24 after reports of a "noxious smell." Fire crews located the bodies of both victims during the evacuation.

Investigators found that calcium sulfide and sulfuric acid were present in the apartment complex, as well as the byproducts of both chemicals, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, according to Shino Tanaka, spokeswoman for the Mountain View Police Department. Four police officers were sickened by the fumes and reported feeling lightheaded.

No suicide note was left with the two bodies, despite initial reports. Police said they did find "something" with the bodies that was being investigated, but declined to say what it was.

Hydrogen sulfide in lower concentrations can cause nausea, eye irritation and headaches, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Higher concentrations can lead to unconsciousness, serious eye damage and death.

James Liu was the store director of the Milk Pail Market in Mountain View and brother-in-law of Steve Rasmussen, the store's owner. Liu's niece, Kai Rasmussen, posted on the Milk Pail Facebook page shortly after the deadly incident and wrote that Liu was a "brilliant manager, buyer, and grocer who was greatly admired by our staff, customers, and vendors alike."

The incident forced residents in the 2025 California St. apartments as well as an adjacent apartment building to evacuate overnight. An estimated 30 to 40 evacuees were sheltered while the areas was cleared out.

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Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Maher
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Oh what was the problem so big that this boy felt he needed to die for it? And why not protect his dad somehow?

I didn't know about the connection with the Milk Pail mkt which has certainly facing so many challenges of late.

This is just such a sad story all around.


14 people like this
Posted by reader
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. People kill themselves because they just want the pain to stop.

Let's hope that anyone in our community who is in pain will reach out to friends and family, or CHAC (650) 965-2020), a trusted adult (such as a teacher, counselor, coach, neighbor, religious leader, even a police officer who is trained to help people who are in crisis) or contact a suicide prevention lifeline (800) 273-8255.

Web Link

Let's all learn the signs of depression and suicide:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings

Let's remember that sometimes teens feel depressed and hopeless over things that may not seem significant to others, such as not making the team or breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend or getting a mediocre score on an SAT or AP exam.

Let's remember that the prefrontal cortex of the brain, that controls reasoning and problem solving, is not fully developed until about age 25, hence the tendency for teens to act on impulse.

Web Link

Let's teach our children that, if a friend shares thoughts of suicide, that they MUST tell at least 3 trusted adults, 3 because one will not believe it, one may be busy, etc. Teens whose inclination is to "promise not to tell" must recognize that signs of suicide are a cry for help and it's better to break a secret than to bury a friend.

Let's withhold judgment and have respect for both those who died and those who lost someone they love.

Let's not have any negative or nasty comments, please, and instead spread goodness and compassion.


4 people like this
Posted by reader
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 4:08 pm

@Maher, my point exactly, a problem that may seem insignificant to you or me may be perceived as insurmountable to someone else. We don't need to understand what he was unhappy about, we just need to accept that it's his reality and get him the help he needs to get through it. (which of course is easier said than done, but like CPR, it's more important to act than to try and figure out someone's predicament)


5 people like this
Posted by Valley Resident
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2014 at 6:32 am

@reader:
I appreciate your attempts to frame the conversation with niceness, and it is important to sympathize, but I believe you are going a bit far and may be restricting important conversation. Many were affected by this trajedy beyond those who loved or knew this teen and father.

"We don't need to understand what he was unhappy about..."
I couldn't disagree more. By doing so you turn a dangerously blind eye toward systemic problems in the community.

*Several* kids from our neighborhoods with otherwise promising futures, have choosen to commit suicide because they believe they are not performing up to unreasonable standards set by or supported by parents, peer groups, school environments, and the media.

If, as reported, this teen was unhappy with not getting into the schools he wanted, don't you think this needs to be considered or discussed? Or that this suicide serves as a reminder of what seems to be an ongoing problem with our community?

As smart as we may want to believe we are in silicon valley, we have become a community that lacks wisdom and compassion toward children. We need to listen to those in pain, but we also need to adjust student expectations to reasonable/attainable levels to prevent these problems before they occur and give students more tools and less pressure-filled environment under which they can process their complicated feelings. We need to push out or limit the feelings of academic competition in school environments where kids aren't developmentally ready. Kids shouldn't be worried about, for example: how many apps they've written or whether they have a patent so they can put that on their college applications, how they market their brand (i.e. their life) through social media to accrue likes or followers or other such false approval, etc. Kids aren't start-ups -- they're people.

CPR may be appropriate in the moment, but it is always a last ditch effort, not always available to those who need it and, most importantly, it is not a preventative treatment of the disease. We need to truly understand what the consequences are of living in such an "innovative" area and *we* need to learn how to process disappointment so we can mentor children through empathy over sympathy (because kids know the difference).

"...we just need to accept that it's his reality..."
William's reality created a hazardous situation that took the life of his father, endangered those living around him, and the emergency responders. The manner in which he took his life was notable in that it had consequences beyond what most in his situation have intended. I'm not so sure we need to merely accept that.


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