When Michael Hastings of Buzzfeed and Rolling Stone died in a fiery car crash back in June, the internet flooded with conspiracy theories about his death. This came as no surprise since, after all, the dogged journalist had brought down a wartime U.S. general with a damning profile and was in the midst of investigating some really powerful figures. But now the Hastings autopsy report and an LA Weekly story have shed more light on his final days and his death and it appears more and more like the whole thing was indeed just a terrible accident and not the diabolically staged political assassination the conspiracy theorists want to believe. Bottom line: Hastings had serious drug dependency issues and he had meth in his system when he died.
First, from the Smoking Gun:
The L.A. coroner’s report notes that Hastings’s family told investigators that they were attempting to get Hastings into detox since they thought he “had started to use drugs again in the past month or so.” Hastings was believed to have been sober “for about the past 14 years.”
A brother told a coroner’s investigator that he believed Hastings was “currently using DMT,” a hallucinogenic, and medicinal marijuana, which “was believed as prescribed for PTSD, as decedent was a war journalist, having had assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Baghdad a few years ago.”
A toxicology screen revealed “a small amount of amphetamine” in Hastings’s blood, which was “consistent with possible intake of methamphetamine many hours before death.”
And the LA Weekly story on Hastings’ final days is fascinating and sad. He’d become so paranoid that he asked his neighbor to borrow her car, convinced that his own was being tracked.
Hastings was intensely interested in government surveillance of journalists. In May, the story broke about the Department of Justice obtaining the phone records of Associated Press reporters. A couple weeks later, Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program became public. Hastings was convinced he was a target.
His behavior grew increasingly erratic. Helicopters often circle over the hills, but Hastings believed there were more of them around whenever he was at home, keeping an eye on him. He came to believe his Mercedes was being tampered with. “Nothing I could say could console him,” Thigpen says.
One night in June, he came to Thigpen’s apartment after midnight and urgently asked to borrow her Volvo. He said he was afraid to drive his own car. She declined, telling him her car was having mechanical problems.
“He was scared, and he wanted to leave town,” she says.
The next day, around 11:15 a.m., she got a call from her landlord, who told her Hastings had died early that morning. His car had crashed into a palm tree at 75 mph and exploded in a ball of fire.
Now I suppose it makes so much sense that Hastings’ widow has been insistent that his accident was a death, as she was in the Piers Morgan interview embedded below: “My gut here is that it was really just a tragic accident.”