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Car Crash that Killed Rolling Stone Reporter Michael Hastings Still Being Investigated

Rumors that Hastings' body was cremated against his family's wishes only fueling conspiracy theories.
 
 
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Los Angeles County law enforcement officials have not yet closed their investigation into the high-speed car crash and ensuing inferno that killed  Rolling Stone  journalist Michael Hastings in the early morning hours of June 18 th in the city’s Hancock Park neighborhood.

Hastings was killed when his Mercedes crashed into a tree and exploded, sparking theories that the reporter, who was said to be working on a major exposé of the CIA, could have been assassinated. In 2010, his  Rolling Stone  profile of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, contained critical remarks about the White House and prompted the general’s reassignment.
 
“The latest is there is no foul play suspected—that’s all you would get from us,” a Los Angeles Police Department  press officer said Wednesday. “According to our traffic investigators, there’s no foul play. That’s all speculation.”
 
A handful of news organizations have unearthed  video of Hastings car speeding through a red light moments before the crash, as well as live  footage of the crash scene before the L.A. Fire Department and Police Department arrived on the scene. That crash scene footage contains eyewitness accounts describing how the car was seen spinning out of control and bursting into a fully engulfed fire upon impact.
 
There has been speculation that a  bomb was planted near the gas tank, as well as suggestions that perhaps the Mercedes’ on-board computer controls were  hacked—causing the rapid acceleration and crash despite whatever Hastings might have been doing behind the wheel to counter that. There are also reports that Hastings’ body was  cremated by the L.A. Coroner’s office against his surviving family’s wishes, implying that physiological evidence was purposely destroyed.
 
On Wednesday,  Los Angeles Department of Coroner Captain John Kades said that his office has not closed its investigation because it is awaiting the results of a range of autopsy tests—which will take another four to six weeks to complete. Hastings’ body was delivered at his family’s request to a funeral home, he said, where it was subsequently cremated. This procedure for transferring remains was routine, he said.
 
“We did a complete autopsy,” Kades said, saying the Coroner’s first task was to identify the body, which it did from fingerprints. “We still got a fingerprint ID; I can’t say how badly the body was burned.”
 
“The LAPD did their own investigation of the cause of the crash,” Kades said, distinguishing between the LAPD traffic accident investigation and the medical examiner’s investigation. “We’re awaiting lab test results” from the autopsy. “We can still do toxicology, detect internal injuries, thermal damage. That process has to run its course.”
 
The autopsy tests are likely to reveal if Hastings might have been drinking or consuming any drugs that could have played a role in the crash. It would also describe the physical injuries that killed him.
 
Kades said there was nothing unusual or out of the ordinary about his office’s ongoing investigation.
 
While the autopsy results will not the answer questions swirling in conspiracy theory circles about Hastings' enemies and whatever role they might have played in his death, law enforcement’s investigation is not over. As tragic as this accident is, there is still more to be learned in coming weeks.    
 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, the low-wage economy, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).