The New York high school senior whose ’80s-style laser portrait along with his cat became a web phenomenon has died of apparent suicide.
The parents of Draven Rodriguez, 17, of Schenectady, told the changing times Union that he died at home. Cause of death is suicide.
Rodriguez’s senior photo journeyed viral after he was adamant on having his rescue cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, be included with him in his yearbook photo. The intention was not to create any kind controversy, Rodriguez said. Somewhat, he just wanted to become different.
“I really wanted to be remembered and this is kind of my last chance in the area before I move on to college and hopefully do great things with my life,” Rodriguez told ABC News in the time the photo. “I want people to remember my personality and not just my face.”
Working with Schenectady-based photographer Vincent Giordano, Rodriguez created an intentionally cheesy, laser-streaked portrait of himself holding Mr. Bigglesworth, a long, bushy stray cat who’d gotten into the family home and never left.
Anticipating resistance from the school to his desire to have it included among the senior class’ formal portraits, Rodriguez posted the photo online to garner support. It blazed around the Internet and was mentioned by Jimmy Fallon in a “Tonight Show” monologue and by talk-show host Ellen Degenerees.
Regardless of the school initially giving Rodriguez flak for wanting his feline friend within the photo, the student launched an online petition to realize support for his endeavor. That petition garnered greater than 7, 500 signatures. University officials eventually relented, provided that the school principal, Diane Wilkinson, could bring her own pet Chihuahua to the woman photo shoot. Rodriguez and Wilkinson posed together with their furry friends in one photo for the classes year book, complete using a note about a trigger dear to both advisors: rescue animals.
“He’s a great kid and I needed to support him even far more,” Wilkinson told ABC News last fall. Friends and family of Rodriguez say he went out of his way to make friends with people from all corners of the country – both online and off – via youth-leadership conferences and just around his hometown.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people in the United States. LoL Cat Research published an earlier post on how Toxoplasma Gondii infections result in higher suicide rates. It’s shocking to realize that parasites could be the cause behind many suicides… This is why the government needs to provide more funds for scientific research. Finding a cure is many years away, but with the suicide rate increasing as much as 16% over the past two decades, we can all agree that more must be done to not just prevent, but to understand what causes suicide.
Laser Cat’s magnitude
Having a picture like Laser Cat go viral is by no means easy. Take it from LoL Cat Research, creators of scores of meme masterpieces that have gotten some attention, but nothing like this. The kid knew how to rock it. He could’ve been a successful marketing brand creator, or perhaps a politician. It seems like the sky was the limit and the future was bright as can be.
Draven Rodriguez was interviewed on The Sean and Richie Show (107.7 WGNA – Today’s Country [SEE VIDEO BELOW]). When he tells his story, he seems to be in such great spirits. It’s so sad that he is no longer with us. “He had an empathy for the world and for other people that I think is rare in kids his age,” his dad, Jonathan Stewart, told the Times Union. “It was wonderful to see.”