An American college student detained for two months in North Korea gave an emotional press conference Monday. 

June 13, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student detained and imprisoned in North Korea is carried off of an airplane at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati. Warmbier has reportedly been in a coma for the past 15 months. Mandatory credit: Sam Greene/The Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK  *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field **
DPRK/ Sam Greene/The Enquirer/USA TODAY
An American college student detained for two months in North Korea gave an emotional press conference Monday. June 13, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old college student detained and imprisoned in North Korea is carried off of an airplane at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati. Warmbier has reportedly been in a coma for the past 15 months. Mandatory credit: Sam Greene/The Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field **
Now playing
02:56
Questions surround Warmbier's injuries
CNN
Now playing
01:52
US to pass 600,000 Covid-19 deaths
POOL
Now playing
02:47
'Surprise is understatement': Reporter on lawmaker's apology
WREX
Now playing
01:00
Explosive chemical factory fire forces evacuation
UNITED STATES - JUNE 9: Attorney General Merrick Garland arrives for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 for the Department of Justice on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP
UNITED STATES - JUNE 9: Attorney General Merrick Garland arrives for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 for the Department of Justice on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
Now playing
02:34
Merrick Garland releases statement regarding leak probes
Jason Isley/Scubazoo
Now playing
01:18
Mysterious skin disease plaguing sharks near popular dive spot
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a special session to vote on a new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. - A delicate eight-party alliance united by animosity for Netanyahu is poised to take over with right-wing Naftali Bennett as prime minister, if the coalition deal passes today's slated parliamentary vote. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a special session to vote on a new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. - A delicate eight-party alliance united by animosity for Netanyahu is poised to take over with right-wing Naftali Bennett as prime minister, if the coalition deal passes today's slated parliamentary vote. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
05:14
Benjamin Netanyahu forced out as Israeli prime minister
screengrab biden g7
pool
screengrab biden g7
Now playing
03:24
Biden ramps up tougher rhetoric against China at G7
Now playing
02:38
CNN's Barbara Starr: No idea why the DOJ snuck into my life
Now playing
08:21
'Very offensive': Mom of US Marine jailed in Russia reacts to Putin's comment
Now playing
02:17
Record heatwave continues to build in the West
View of the construction site of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Taishan city, south China's Guangdong province, 12 September 2012.
Zhou huadong/Imaginechina/AP
View of the construction site of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Taishan city, south China's Guangdong province, 12 September 2012.
Now playing
03:30
Concerns over possible leak at nuclear plant in southern China
GRUENHEIDE, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 03: Tesla head Elon Musk talks to the press as he arrives to to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin on September 03, 2020 near Gruenheide, Germany. Musk is currently in Germany where he met with vaccine maker CureVac on Tuesday, with which Tesla has a cooperation to build devices for producing RNA vaccines, as well as German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier yesterday. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
Maja Hitij/Getty Images
GRUENHEIDE, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 03: Tesla head Elon Musk talks to the press as he arrives to to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin on September 03, 2020 near Gruenheide, Germany. Musk is currently in Germany where he met with vaccine maker CureVac on Tuesday, with which Tesla has a cooperation to build devices for producing RNA vaccines, as well as German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier yesterday. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:50
Bitcoin surges as Elon Musk hints Tesla could accept the cryptocurrency again
Metro Video Services, LLC. -- Austin Division
Now playing
02:42
Number of people killed by guns in US continues to rise
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II (C) with US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden in the Grand Corridor during their visit to Windsor Castle on June 13, 2021 in Windsor, England. Queen Elizabeth II hosts US President, Joe Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden at Windsor Castle. The President arrived from Cornwall where he attended the G7 Leader's Summit and will travel on to Brussels for a meeting of NATO Allies and later in the week he will meet President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Steve Parsons/WPA Pool/Getty Images
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Queen Elizabeth II (C) with US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden in the Grand Corridor during their visit to Windsor Castle on June 13, 2021 in Windsor, England. Queen Elizabeth II hosts US President, Joe Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden at Windsor Castle. The President arrived from Cornwall where he attended the G7 Leader's Summit and will travel on to Brussels for a meeting of NATO Allies and later in the week he will meet President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Now playing
05:01
Queen Elizabeth II greets the Bidens at Windsor Castle
Getty Images
Now playing
00:49
Actor Ned Beatty of 'Deliverance' and 'Superman' dies
World Food Programme
Now playing
01:36
UN report: 350K facing starvation in conflict-hit Ethiopia

Story highlights

Otto Warmbier died on Monday after 17 months detention in North Korea

Doctors said he suffered significant tissue loss in his brain

CNN —  

After 17 months of detention in North Korea, the conditions of which are still unclear, Otto Warmbier returned to his home state of Ohio last week.

On Monday, his family announced his death.

“It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost – future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person,” his family said in a statement.

The young man who landed in Cincinnati wasn’t the same person who left a year and a half ago on a trip to explore the secretive country.

Before his death, Warmbier did not talk, move in any purposeful way or respond to verbal communication. In a news conference, doctors called his condition “unresponsive wakefulness,” and revealed he had suffered significant brain damage during his imprisonment.

The North Korean government said botulism is to blame for Warmbier’s condition, but doctors said they didn’t find any evidence of the illness in the now 22-year-old.

01:37 - Source: CNN
Unresponsive wakefulness explained

Before his detention made global headlines, Otto Warmbier was just an adventurous college student.

Bright future

Otto was born to Cindy and Fred Warmbier in Cincinnati – the same city in which he’s now hospitalized.

He excelled in academics, graduating from Wyoming High School in 2013 as his class salutatorian and getting a scholarship to the University of Virginia. There, he studied commerce and economics and was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity.

By all accounts, Warmbier was a planner. Someone who would always prioritize family and schoolwork over socializing.

“If Otto had anything schoolwork-related, job-related, family-related that he needed to do,” Otto’s friend Ned Ende told the Washington Post, “there was absolutely nothing you could say to him to convince him to do stuff with you.”

But instead of graduating in May with the rest of his class, Warmbier was still in North Korea.

It wasn’t a part of the plan.

01:49 - Source: CNN
North Korea releases imprisoned US student

Eye for adventure

In the spring of 2016, Warmbier signed up for a trip to North Korea with the Young Pioneer Tours travel group, a company that takes participants to places they wouldn’t normally go.

“Otto was just a really great lad,” Danny Gratton, Otto’s roomate on the trip, told the Washington Post.

“I got to know Otto really, really well. He was such a mature lad for his age.”

In pictures and videos from his time in North Korea, Warmbier can be seen smiling and enjoying himself.

One image taken during the trip shows Warmbier throwing a snowball and laughing.

Otto Warmbier, fourth from the right in a blue jacket, throws a snowball in this photo from his trip to North Korea.
WCPO
Otto Warmbier, fourth from the right in a blue jacket, throws a snowball in this photo from his trip to North Korea.

“This is the Otto I know and love,” Warmbier’s brother Austin told CNN affiliate WCPO. “This is my brother.”

In total, the trip was supposed to last five days. Warmbier had plans to visit Beijing, China, after he left North Korea.

But as he tried to depart from Pyongyang’s airport, he was stopped in security.

According to the North Korean government, Warmbier was detained because he had sneaked onto a restricted floor of his hotel and had stolen a political poster.

The next time the world saw Warmbier he was distraught, breaking down in front of Korean journalists in a video released by North Korea in February of 2016. He admitted to the crime and begged for forgiveness and for his release. It’s not known whether his confession was voluntary.

02:13 - Source: CNN
US student held in North Korea 'confesses'

For his alleged crime, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. In the end, he spent 17 months in North Korea before being released. He was taken by a medical aircraft to the US.

After his arrival, doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said his condition was severe, and that he suffered extensive loss of tissue in all regions of his brain.

01:01 - Source: CNN
Fred Warmbier: We don't believe North Korea

The circumstances under which he came to be in that state remain a mystery.

In the statement announcing his death, Warmbier’s family said he had completed his journey home and was finally at peace.

“Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”