Police report: Cornell told wife, ‘I am just tired’

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Just minutes after Soundgarden’s concert at the Fox Theatre ended Wednesday night, frontman Chris Cornell was back in his hotel room at the MGM Grand, talking by phone with his wife.

What Vicky Cornell heard alarmed her.

Her husband was slurring his words, sounded groggy and kept repeating: “I’m just tired,” according to a family statement and a police report obtained by The Detroit News.

Fans honor Chris Cornell outside Fox Theatre

She asked the band’s bodyguard to check on Cornell, who busted into the room and made a gruesome discovery: the alternative rocker was on the bathroom floor “with blood running from his mouth and a red exercise band around (his) neck,” according to the report.

Within two hours, Cornell, 52, was pronounced dead. The police report, filed by officers from the Detroit Police Gaming Unit who responded to the scene, describes the final moments of the singer’s life and the start of the investigation into how he died.

What happened in those two hours is already a matter of significant dispute between a family that doesn’t believe he would have intentionally taken his own life and the Wayne County medical Examiner’s Office, which declared his death a suicide by hanging.

About an hour before he was found, Cornell had walked off stage with his bandmates about 11:15 p.m. to the raucous cheers of a sellout crowd of more than 5,000 fans.

Within 15 minutes, Cornell was back in Room 1136 at the MGM, where bodyguard Martin Kirsten helped fix the star’s computer and gave him two doses of an anti-anxiety medicine, according to the police report.

A memorial to Soundgarden vocalist and guitarist Chris Cornell is pictured at KEXP on May 18, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Cornell was found dead in his hotel room in Detroit.

At 11:35 p.m., Cornell was on the phone with his wife.

She called Kirsten at 12:15 a.m., and the bodyguard went to the room and found the door locked, the report said. Kirsten kicked the door open, only to find a second door leading to the bedroom suite also was latched — so, the report said, he kicked that door open, too, and found Cornell.

In a statement issued by Vicky Cornell and attorney Kirk Pasich, the lawyer said the family needs the results of toxicology tests to be sure what happened to the alternative rocker.

“The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions,” Pasich said.

In the statement, Vicky Cornell said she spoke to her husband before and after the concert and noticed during the later conversation that he was slurring his words.

“He was different,” she said. “When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him.”

According to the police report, Kirsten gave Cornell two Ativan pills, “which victim takes for anxiety,” the report said.

A Soundgarden publicist said band members are not speaking publicly about Cornell’s death.

Rachel Montgomery holds a photograph of Chris Cornell outside the Fox Theatre in tribute to Chris Cornell.

Officials with Olympia Entertainment, which owns the Fox Theatre, did not respond to a request for comment.

After hearing from Vicky Cornell, Kirsten walked two doors down to Cornell’s suite, to which he had a key, but found the door latched, the report said. “(Kirsten) called security from hotel phone in hallway ... stating he needs to get into (the) room to check on (the) victim,” the report said.

“Security stated they can not let him into the room because he is not registered to that room,” the report said. “At this time (Kirsten) kicked in the door with his feet and ... went to the bedroom door and (the) latch had been engaged on this door also.

“(Kirsten) again called for security but could not gain access to (the) room,” the report said. “At this time (Kirsten) kicked in (the) bedroom door and found victim laying on the bathroom floor.”

Julie Webber holds flowers and candles in rememberance of Chris Cornell outside the Fox Theatre in tribute to Chris Cornell on Friday, May 19, 2017.

MGM medic Dawn Jones arrived at the room at 12:56 a.m., the report said. “Jones untied the red exercise band from (the) victim’s neck and began CPR on (Cornell, who) was not breathing.”

EMS Unit 42 was at the scene by 1 a.m. An emergency medical technician also unsuccessfully performed CPR on Cornell, according to the report.

“At 1:30AM on 5/18/2017, victim was pronounced dead (by a doctor who came to the scene),” the report said.

Homicide detectives arrived at the room and began their investigation, while another officer phoned Cornell’s wife to break the news he’d been found dead.

“Victim’s wife ... stated victim is a recovered drug addict,” the report said.


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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN

Staff Writers Adam Graham and Stephanie Steinberg contributed.