A man adored by millions was alone in Paisley Park as he died.
Prince was found alone in his massive Chanhassen recording complex by employees who became alarmed when they couldn’t reach him, Carver County officials said Friday. There were no signs of foul play or suicide.
His collapse came less than a week after a medical crisis in which Prince’s private plane made an emergency early-morning landing in Illinois as he was returning to the Twin Cities from two shows in Atlanta.
The Star Tribune has confirmed that the Moline, Ill., Fire Department was called to Quad City International Airport about 1:15 a.m. on April 15 to provide emergency service. Federal aviation records show that Prince’s chartered jet landed at the airport three minutes later.
A source close to Prince later told the Star Tribune that the emergency landing was due to dehydration. The artist’s performances in Atlanta came after scheduled shows there a week earlier had been postponed; a statement from the Fox Theatre at the time said Prince was “battling the flu.”
Prince, 57, made a brief appearance last Saturday at a Paisley Park party to assure fans that he was well, unveiling a new purple piano by playing “Chopsticks.”
“Wait a few days before you waste any prayers,” he said.
Sightings at a record store and at the Dakota Jazz Club over the next few days seemed to confirm that there was little to worry about.
He was last seen about 8 p.m. Wednesday, when an acquaintance dropped him off at Paisley Park, Sheriff Jim Olson said at a Friday afternoon news conference.
On Thursday morning, members of Prince’s staff had tried to contact him but couldn’t reach him. What followed was a frantic 911 call from Paisley Park at 9:43 a.m. Emergency responders arrived within minutes to find him on the floor of an elevator inside his home studio.
The man who gave the world the “Minneapolis Sound” was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m.
Martha Weaver, a spokeswoman for the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, would not discuss whether Prince was already dead when he was found.
But the unidentified 911 caller said “the person is dead here,” according to a transcript of the call. Later, the caller said, “Yes, it’s Prince.”
At Friday’s news briefing, Olson told the dozens of reporters from around the globe: “To you, Prince Rogers Nelson was a celebrity. To us, he was a good neighbor.
“In life, he was a very private person. We are going to continue to respect his privacy and dignity.”
Autopsy completed Friday
Peppered with questions, Olson refused to speculate about the cause of death but did reveal some details about the circumstances in which Prince was found.
He was discovered in the elevator on the first floor, Olson said. The elevator had no emergency phone and Olson said he did not recall seeing a cellphone at the scene.
Three people were present when police arrived, Olson said, but he would not identify them.
Olson also didn’t say whether Prince was home alone all night. He added that it wouldn’t be unusual for Prince to be by himself in the 55,000-square-foot complex.
An autopsy by Dr. A. Quinn Strobl of the medical examiner’s office was completed at 1 p.m. on Friday, officials said, and the body was released to the family. As part of the autopsy process, information regarding Prince’s medical, social and family history will be gathered.
Tests will include tissue samples and full-spectrum toxicology screens based on blood draws, Weaver said. A final report on the cause of death likely won’t be made public for weeks, and Weaver said her office wouldn’t release any preliminary information.
Public will know outcome
Olson said that his office is working with three or four other police agencies on the case but that it hasn’t called for assistance from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Aware of the intense world scrutiny, he promised “to leave no stone unturned and make sure the public knows [the outcome].
“It’s better for us to do it well than to do it fast,” Olson said.
Sheriff’s officials said they were still compiling reports from many officers and wouldn’t be able to make them public until next week.
Olson said the sheriff’s log showed no calls in the last year to Paisley Park or involving Prince personally.
The sheriff would not confirm whether Prince was taking any medication, but said “we’ll be talking to people close to him.”
Olson said that his officers carry Narcan, an opiate antidote, but that they did not administer it to Prince.
There was one unintentionally light moment at the news conference, when Olson was asked how Prince was dressed when he was found.
“He was in clothes. I can’t say for sure what he sleeps in versus what he goes out in,” Olson said as the reporters broke out laughing at the memory of Prince’s flamboyant fashion choices. “He had on a shirt and pants of some sort.”
A run on purple roses
The mood at Paisley Park that morning was “somber,” Olson said.
“He was a friend to the people who were there, as well as being an employer,” he said. “They were certainly shook by what happened.” He wouldn’t say whether any staff members were under investigation.
The crowds at Paisley Park on Friday were even larger than the day before, as fans and curiosity-seekers by the hundreds arrived in a steady stream.
At midmorning, a locksmith’s truck arrived and went in through the gate.
The chain-link fence surrounding the compound was adorned with flowers and balloons, many of them purple, stretching for more than 100 feet.
Nikki Grund, owner of Chanhassen Floral, said she got a rush delivery of purple roses Thursday and another order Friday morning.
“I’m really stocked up on purple,” she said. “The die-hard fans are searching me out.”
Staff writers Beatrice Dupuy, Dan Browning, Jennifer Bjorhus and C.J. contributed to this report.
John Reinan • 612-673-7402