MINNEAPOLIS — An autopsy began Friday to determine what caused the death of the iconic musician Prince, though officials said it could take days or even weeks before results are publicly released.
Prince was found unresponsive Thursday morning in an elevator at his Paisley Park compound in suburban Minneapolis. The local sheriff said deputies responded to a medical call at 9:43 a.m. but that first-responders couldn’t revive the 57-year-old musician. He was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m.
The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office was handling the autopsy, but the agency doesn’t plan to release any preliminary information, agency spokeswoman Martha Weaver said Friday. She said it could take several days or even weeks for tests to be completed and the office will wait to release findings until all the information is in.
Prince earlier this month had cancelled concerts at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, which said at the time that the entertainer was suffering from the flu. He performed a makeup concert April 14 in that city, apologizing to the crowd for the earlier cancellation shortly after coming on stage.
While talking to the crowd between songs, he joked about having been “under the weather,” giving a slight smile. His voice seemed a bit weak at times when he spoke, but he sounded fine when singing during the 80-minute show, which featured “Nothing Compares 2 U” and his finale, “Baby, I’m A Star.”
He sat at his piano for most of the show, but stood up at times to pound the keys and walked around the piano a couple of times, soaking up cheers.
Celebrity website TMZ.com, citing unnamed sources, reported last week that Prince fell ill again as he returned from Atlanta to Minneapolis early April 15, and that his flight made an emergency landing in Moline, Ill., where he was briefly hospitalized.
Asked whether Prince’s flight made such a landing at the Quad City Airport in Moline, public safety manager Jeff Patterson said Friday that a private Falcon 900 plane made a “medical diversion landing” at 1:17 a.m. on April 15. He said the plane requested an ambulance at the airport and that a patient was taken to the hospital.
He declined to name the patient or the plane’s owner, or provide the plane’s tail number.
Prince previously had spoken about struggling with childhood epilepsy and friends said he had hip trouble. His former percussionist, Sheila E., told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday that Prince damaged his hips while performing, saying he jumped off risers while wearing high heels during his “Purple Rain” days and that “it damaged parts of his body.” Prince was seen in recent years using a cane.
Prince revealed in a 2009 interview with Tavis Smiley that he was “born epileptic” and had seizures when he was young. It’s unclear if his epilepsy carried into adulthood.
Prince, a Jehovah’s Witness, had a reputation for clean living. In 2009, he told an interviewer with the Los Angeles Times that he didn’t do drugs “or I’d give you a joint” to share while they listened to music.
After the Atlanta performance, Prince hosted a dance party on April 16 at his Paisley Park compound.
Jeremiah Freed, who runs the website drfunkenberry.com and who got to know Prince after writing about him over the years, said he last saw Prince when he made a brief appearance at the party. Freed said the artist showed off a new purple piano he had received as a gift, as well as a purple guitar, but seemed upset about the reports of an illness.
“When he had to talk about the stories going on, he didn’t seem too pleased. It was kind of like, ‘I’m here. I’m good,”’ Freed said, adding that Prince told the crowd: “Just wait a few days before saying your prayers.”
Lars Larson, a 37-year-old Minneapolis man who worked security for Prince and at Paisley Park events for about six years, said he attended the same party. Larson said the singer briefly appeared on stage and spoke to the crowd before standing by the sound board for 20 minutes then disappearing for the night.
“He seemed great. He looked like Prince,” he said. “The whole point of the show on Saturday was to show he was doing all right.”