Autopsy Conducted After Jackson's Sudden Death

By Hank Stuever and Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 26, 2009; 1:01 PM

An autopsy is being conducted today on mega-pop star Michael Jackson, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office said, but results of toxicology and other tests that will help determine the cause of death will not be known for a week or more.

Jackson, 50, died yesterday in Los Angeles as sensationally as he lived, as famous as a human being can get. He was a child Motown phenomenon who grew into a moonwalking megastar, the self-anointed King of Pop who sold 750 million records over his career and enjoyed worldwide adoration.

But with that came the world's relentless curiosity, and Jackson was eventually regarded as one of show business's legendary oddities, hopping from one public relations crisis to another.

Fans around the world are mourning him -- from Silver Spring to Seoul, Mitchellville to Tehran. They brought teddy bears and flowers to make a shrine at his star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame this morning, even as an attorney who described himself as a family spokesman made the rounds of television talk shows, proclaiming to anyone who would listen his theory that Jackson's death likely came from abuse of prescription drugs.

In the end there were two sides to the record that will stand as Jackson's life: the tabloid caricature and the provocative, genre-changing musical genius that his fans will always treasure. There were those whose devotion knew no bounds, who visited the gates of his private ranch north of Santa Barbara, Calif., arriving at Neverland on pilgrimages from Europe and Asia, and who were among the first to flock to UCLA Medical Center as news of his death spread yesterday afternoon. Those were the same kind of fans who camped out at the Santa Barbara Superior Courthouse to show their support during his 2005 trial. They released doves and wept when he was acquitted.

Then there was the other kind of fan, who preferred to keep memories of the singer locked firmly in his 1980s prime: Today's young adults all have memories of being toddlers and grade-schoolers who moonwalked across their mother's just mopped kitchen floors. Even the hardest rockers will easily confess to the first album they ever bought: "Thriller."

"I am just dev-as-tated," said Bridgette Cooper, 44, of Mitchellville, who was driving her children to math tutoring when her 12-year-old got the news by text. "I don't ever remember not loving him. I have been a fan forever. Even through the turmoil and the public spectacle, I still loved him and his music."

Jackson's death set off an instant media frenzy befitting the later chapters of his celebrityhood. The singer appeared to have suffered cardiac arrest at one of his residences in Bel-Air. Paramedics said Jackson was not breathing when they arrived at 12:26 p.m. Pacific time. The singer was brought to the UCLA Medical Center at 1:14 p.m. PDT and pronounced dead at 2:26 (5:26 Eastern).

Web sites began reporting that the singer had been taken to the hospital. Soon, streets in the Westwood neighborhoods around the hospital were clogged with traffic as crowds of onlookers formed, much as they did wherever the singer had appeared. Soon enough, they were dancing and playing Jackson's music, as a helicopter flew away with his body, en route to the coroner. All around the world, people cued up Jackson's songs -- some digging out cassettes and LPs.

Jackson's brother, Jermaine, told reporters that "it is believed [Jackson] suffered cardiac arrest" and that the star's personal physician had tried to revive him. Jermaine Jackson then asked for something his family is unlikely to get in the next several days: privacy. "And may Allah be with you, Michael, always," he said.

Lt. Brian Elias, an investigator with the coroner's office, said this morning that the autopsy will take several hours. No preliminary cause of death will be released when it is finished, Elias said, but officials will likely issue a statement saying the examination has been completed and describing what types of tests are being ordered.

In the meantime, lawyer Brian Oxman, who has worked with the Jackson family, told CBS's "The Early Show" that he had been concerned about the prescription drugs that Jackson took due to injuries suffered while performing. "I do not want to point fingers at anyone because I want to hear what the toxicology report says and the coroner says but the plain fact of the matter is that Michael Jackson had prescription drugs at his disposal at all times," Oxman said.

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