The untold truth of Etika

Shortly after starting his YouTube channel in 2012, Daniel Desmond Amofah – better known by his screen name: Etika — quickly became one of the social video site's most prominent gaming vloggers. With his trademark high-top fade so impressive it gave that dude from Kid 'n Play a run for his money, Etika seemed to be, on the surface, a friendly guy with an irresistible enthusiasm for video games, particularly those playable on Nintendo consoles. At the peak of his popularity, Etika enjoyed a following of more than 800,000 devoted fans (also known as JoyCon Boyz, named for the controller on his beloved Nintendo Switch).

In June 2019, the vlogger (and former model and rapper) tragically died at age 29 in New York City. The YouTube star had been reported missing. Police located some of his belongings on the Manhattan Bridge, and later recovered his body from the East River. Here's a look back on the fascinating, complicated, and too short life of Etika.

Etika is Ghanian-American

Desmond "Etika" Amofah was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. into a prominent political family. Etika's father, Emmanuel Owuraku Amofah, represented the Abuakwa area in the parliament of the African nation of Ghana from 1992 to 1996. He parlayed that into a position in the cabinet of Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings, serving as his Deputy of Tourism. Emmanuel reportedly lost that job in 2000, when a dispute with Rawlings supposedly got so heated that Emmanuel slammed the president's fingers in a car door. That prompted Emmanuel to return to the United States, where he studied law, and to the New York area, where Etika lived and worked.

While Etika became a major gaming personality, his father earned a position as an administrative law judge with New York City's Parking Violations Bureau. From there, he reportedly opened a service to help people get their traffic citations dismissed — something he was very good at, considering the insider knowledge ascertained while working as a judge presiding over parking problems. In fact, according to the New York Post, city officials believe Emmanuel "used his intimate knowledge of the Parking Violations Bureau to cheat the city out of more than $100,000 in fines." Emmanuel's clients reportedly paid him "20 percent of every citation he got tossed."

Etika got scammed out of donations

Consuming social media-driven video streaming elements on the internet, such as YouTube and Twitch, may be essentially free to the consumer, but a lot of the people making that content earn their bread and butter via advertising revenue and donations. Etika had a donation system set up on his Twitch stream, so fans could toss him a few bucks in appreciation for the entertainment. Sounds rather straightforward, right? Wrong.

In 2017, Etika posted a YouTube video (via Kotaku) railing against viewers who "f*** with me, f*** with my money, or f*** with my life." The problem: A handful of viewers had reportedly gamed the system to levy "chargeback" fees against the streamer. In Etika's video, he shared proof of five donations he'd received (in increments of $50 or $100), and then he showed that those donations had all become disputed charges on his PayPal account. When that occurs, the so-called benefactor gets his/her money back, but the ill-fated recipient gets hit with hefty processing fees. In Etika's case, those five transactions resulted in about $100 in penalties. "For content creators like myself and many others who suffer from a problem like this," Etika said in the video, "it also f***s our lives since everything I do is through PayPal." Not cool, internet. Not cool.

Etika's early Switch came with a hitch.

Desmond "Etika" Amofah loved the Nintendo Switch more than just about anything. He considered himself such a devotee of the gaming console, which combines the touchscreen and TV hookups of the Nintendo Wii U with the portability of the Nintendo DS, that he called his fans and followers JoyCon Boyz – Joy-Con is the portmanteau name of the Switch's "joystick controller."

The Switch hit stores in mid-2017 (and faced short supply for months), which made it quite curious when Etika somehow got his Nintendo-loving hands on one way back in November 2016. The first video of Etika showing off the device circulated for a few days before it disappeared – around the same time that other hardcore Nintendo acolytes called foul on various subreddits and other places. Despite accusations that Etika's Switch was fake, the YouTuber posted another video showing off his new toy … without ever actually turning it on.

So, was that Switch a fake? Sort of. Etika's controversial device was a facsimile created by 3-D printer-wielding designer Frank Sandqvist. Why'd they do it? Etika tweeted that it was merely for "a goof, a giggle, a laugh."

Etika had an online breakdown in October 2018

For six years, Desmond "Etika" Amofah racked up a huge following across the social media platforms of Twitter and Instagram. He also became a star on the video-game-centric Twitch and became one of the more successful gaming personalities on YouTube. But then in late 2018, Etika began to struggle publicly with his mental health difficulties. Shortly after his popular YouTube channel was "terminated for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines" in October 2018 for posting pornography (which Etika claimed was the result of a hack), he responded on Reddit in a way that worried a lot of people. "And now, it's my turn to die. I love you all," Etika wrote alongside a screen-capture of his suspended YouTube page. "Keep fighting for me, ok? I'll miss y'all."

Soon thereafter, Etika apologized on Reddit. "I'm sorry for worrying all of you, I'm sorry for making you all fear that I was suicidal," he wrote. "I was being very metaphorical and crazy that night. I was having a lot of personal realizations."

Etika live-streamed a dramatic interaction with police

According to The Verge, Etika posted a series of disturbing tweets in April 2019, including a picture of himself with a firearm. After allegedly threatening self-harm, police were called to his home in Brooklyn, where he was detained for about 45 minutes. He streamed the whole thing live on Instagram to as many as 19,000 people, according to Kotaku. From the vantage point of Etika's phone, that experience included a SWAT team entering the apartment by force, a long conversation with police officers, images of cars and caution tape on the cordoned-off street below his home, and Etika noting several times how he was "scared" before he eventually left with the authorities. An NYPD representative reported that police had responded to his home because of Etika's "psych history" and because he had been "threatening suicide inside the apartment." Police reportedly escorted Etika to a nearby hospital. 

A couple of days later, Etika found himself involved in another public incident. A video hit Twitter showing the YouTube star engaged in "a physical altercation with police in New York." Christine Cardona, Etika's ex-girlfriend, talked about the incident on Twitter. "He has NOT been arrested, he's not going to jail," she tweeted. "A doctor just called me. He's at the mental ward of a hospital again, not saying where." According to Heavy, Etika was not charged with the potential felony of "punching a police officer in the face" due to his mental health history.

Etika's tragic, final upload

On June 19, 2019, Desmond "Etika" Amofah did what he'd done so many times before to the interest of so many: He posted a video to YouTube. Unfortunately, this Etika clip had nothing to do with video games. Since his primary and wildly popular channel had long since been shut down, he uploaded a video to his secondary YouTube account, TR1Iceman. In the eight-minute video, titled "I'm Sorry." 

That video has since been removed, but it according to BuzzFeed, it's been reposted online by others. In the clip, Amofah reportedly spoke with sadness and finality about himself and his YouTube tenure as he walked the streets of New York City. "I'm sorry to those of you who I betrayed," the vlogger said. "I'm sorry for leaving such a stained legacy. I hope that my story maybe helps to make YouTube be a better place somehow in the future." Alarmingly, Etika also explicitly mentioned suicide and seemingly implied that he had plans to take his own life. "I really had no intention of killing myself," he said. "But I'd always push it too far. I guess I am mentally ill." The internet personality also noted: "It was a fun life. I had a great time. It was great. But for it to be cut so short, it's f***ed."

Etika's disappearance resolved in the worst way possible

In light of that troubling video and his numerous struggles with mental illness, Demond "Etika" Amofah's family, friends, and fans likely feared the worst when the 29-year-old went missing. According to the New York City Police Department, the vlogger "was last heard from" on June 19, 2019 via a phone call at around 8 p.m. Just hours later, per the New York Post, investigators discovered some telling items on the Manhattan Bridge: Amofah's wallet and driver's license, his phone, a laptop bag, and a Nintendo Switch.

The Manhattan Bridge spans the East River, and according to Radar Online, police responded to a 911 call regarding the discovery of a body in the water on June 24, 2019. The NYPD confirmed via Twitter that the body recovered near the South Street Seaport was that of Etika: "We regret to inform that Desmond Amofah aka Etika has been found deceased."

Though his relationship with online platforms and communities was certainly conflicted, fans have flooded Twitter with messages of grief and support. "Etika was a pillar of the Smash, Nintendo, YouTube, gaming & esports communities. Etika will be remembered as a good man," tweeted Esports consultant Rod Breslau.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.