Report: Investigators of Prince’s Death Are Focusing on Painkillers

Prince in Concert
Prince, 1986. Photo: Ross Marino/Sygma/Corbis

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, citing unnamed sources, reports that investigators are focusing on how painkillers may have led to Prince’s hospitalization and death. The newspaper writes that several “familiar with the probe have told the Star Tribune that painkillers may have taken a toll on the musician during his final weeks.” The report provides details that match those in a TMZ story about a medical emergency that happened less than a week before Prince’s death: The late pop icon made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, because of an opioid overdose, according to the sources; there, he received an antidote and stayed in a hospital for a few hours, before returning home.

Mike Padden, former attorney for two of Prince’s half-siblings, Lorna Nelson and Duane Nelson — both of whom brought lawsuits against Prince in the past, and are now deceased — also tells the Star Tribune his clients had alleged that Prince used Percocet more than a decade ago. “Lorna [Nelson] told me that her brother would die young — the way she phrased it was ‘before his time,’” Padden says in a video interview. “Duane [Nelson] would get [Prince] the Percocet. … His sister independently corroborated every single thing that Duane said to me.” Padden says he has been interviewed by local authorities.

Others close to Prince, however, are disputing the drug claims. Talking to the AP earlier on Monday night, the artist’s lawyer, L. Londell McMillan, said medication might have been used to treat pain, but none “that would be any cause for concern.” “Everybody who knows Prince knows he wasn’t walking around drugged up,” he added. “That’s foolish. No one ever saw Prince and said, ‘He looks high.’ It wasn’t what he was about.” Longtime Prince collaborator Sheila E. also refuted the allegations, telling the Star Tribune that she had “never seen [Prince] take anything, not even aspirin, in the 38 years” she knew him. “Was he in pain? Yeah, he was in pain,” the drummer said. “People don’t even know what it’s like to play two or three hours in a show. We’re athletes. Athletes go back out — it doesn’t matter if they’re hurt.”

Carver County authorities haven’t commented on the topic yet. Prince’s initial autopsy was completed last week, one day after he was found unresponsive at his Paisley Park estate: There were no signs of trauma, and police ruled out suicide. The rest of the results, including the final cause of death, won’t be made public for several weeks.

Update: NBC News, citing federal law enforcement officials, adds that the DEA has been asked to help local authorities in the investigation.


Report: Prince Investigation Focusing on Drugs