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New details released about Chicago rapper Juice Wrld's death: 'He let out a gasp and collapsed to the ground'

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 1/26/2020 By William Lee and Jeremy Gorner, Chicago Tribune
Juice Wrld performs at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on November 9, 2019. © Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS Juice Wrld performs at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on November 9, 2019.

CHICAGO — Rapper Juice Wrld had just stepped from the Gulfstream jet early last December and was waiting in a private hangar at Midway Airport with his girlfriend when “he let out a gasp and collapsed to the ground,” according to new details about his death released Thursday.

By the time paramedics arrived around 2 a.m. Dec. 8, the 21-year-old rapper was still on the floor, moving and bleeding from his nose and mouth, according to a report filed by the Chicago Fire Department. Pills were scattered around him, and paramedics were told he had been given Narcan, an emergency treatment when opioid overdose is suspected.

The girlfriend said the rapper — whose real name was Jarad Higgins — had a drug problem and took Percocet, which contains acetaminophen and oxycodone, a powerful painkiller and opioid.

Higgins “stopped breathing and became pulseless” after he was brought to the ambulance, according to the report, released after the Tribune filed a Freedom of Information request. The paramedics started CPR and provided Narcan again “with no change.”

Higgins was taken to Holy Cross Hospital, where more Narcan was administered, again with no change in his condition, the report states. He was transferred to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead at 3:14 a.m., six days after his birthday. Emergency room doctors found nine pills in his pockets.

The Cook County medical examiner did not release a cause of death until toxicology tests were completed in recent days. They found that Higgins’ death was accidental, caused by an overdose of oxycodone and codeine. Other drugs found in his system included THC (an active ingredient in marijuana), morphine and caffeine.

Higgins, his girlfriend and at least eight other people flew to Chicago from Van Nuys, California. As the plane approached the Atlantic Aviation hangar, they were greeted by federal agents who had been tipped that the group was carrying contraband, according to law enforcement sources.

The search turned up 41 “vacuum-sealed” bags of marijuana, six bottles of prescription codeine cough syrup, two 9 mm pistols, a .40-caliber pistol, a high-capacity ammunition magazine and metal-piercing bullets, according to the sources. Two men identified by police as working security for Higgins were charged with misdemeanor offenses for illegally possessing the guns and ammunition.

The reports released Thursday do not include any documents explaining the tip or detailing interviews with Higgins’ entourage.

Chicago police said they were notified while the jet was still en route to Midway that federal agents suspected it was carrying “weapons and narcotics.” Plainclothes tactical and gang crime officers joined the agents at the hangar as the jet landed. A drug-sniffing dog made a “positive alert” for bags on two luggage carts, sources said.

No drug charges were filed. Sources said the marijuana and codeine were found in bags that had no name tags.

Higgins’ music career took off after he gained support from freestyling on his high school’s radio show, according to a 2018 Tribune profile. He racked up millions of streams on SoundCloud for music that blended “elements of meandering, mumble-rap singing against drill-lite percussion and pop-punk melodies … bridging the gap between urban and suburban youth experiences; an angst-riddled adolescence that feels just as romantically rejected and isolated as it wants to turn-up.”

Higgins’ more emotional rap focusing on the challenges of drug addiction, mental illness and depression struck a chord with young fans, who memorialized him after his death.

Higgins, who grew up in the south suburbs, had landed a $3 million deal with Interscope Records. Last year, he was one of two artists chosen by McDonald’s to be part of a philanthropic campaign, representing their hometowns by partnering with a local charity and performing concerts.

Higgins had been open on social media as well as in media interviews and his music about his struggles with drug use, particularly codeine.


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