The journalist’s fiery 4 a.m. single-car crash in Los Angeles came 15 hours after he sent friends an email warning them the FBI was on his tail. ‘Hey — the feds are interviewing my “close friends and associates,”‘ the message said. ‘Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the [radar] for a bit.’
He had a big story and wanted to get off the radar until things cooled down.
Hours later, Michael Hastings was dead.
The 33-year-old journalist’s fiery 4 a.m. single-car crash June 18 in Los Angeles came 15 hours after he sent friends a panicked email warning them the FBI was on his tail.
“Hey [redacted] — the feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates,'” reads the email, acquired Friday by KTLA-TV. “Perhaps if the authorities arrive ‘BuzzFeed GQ’, er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.
“Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the radat (sic) for a bit.
“All the best, and hope to see you all soon,” Hastings signed off. The email was sent at around 1 p.m. Monday.
Few probably saw him alive after that, and the story was never written. Instead, Hastings slammed his new Mercedes at high speed into a tree on Hollywood’s Highland Avenue.
The Internet erupted shortly after debating conspiracy theories about the death of Hastings, who was known as a tenacious reporter unbowed by threats.
Hastings, who wrote for BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone, famously brought down U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in a 2010 Rolling Stone cover story. He was most recently covering Edward Snowden’s leak of the NSA’s classified domestic monitoring program.
The FBI denied Hastings was under investigation and police continue to examine the circumstances of the fatal crash.
But the email’s content worried Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, who was blind-copied on the note sent to Hasting’s colleagues.
“It alarmed me very much,” said Biggs, who provided a copy of the note to KTLA. “I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me.”
One theory being floated online speculates Hastings sped away down Highland as he tried to lose someone tailing him. But a news photographer, Scott Lane, says his dashboard camera caught Hastings blowing through a red light at a high speed – minutes before the crash. The footage doesn’t show a car following the reporter, Lane said while speaking with the TV station.
A community board on Reddit speculated last week that the car was either rigged to lose control or burst into flames at a certain time.
Biggs, who got to know the reporter in Afghanistan while Hastings embedded with his unit in 2008, spoke affectionately of his friend, who was known for going after stories others would shy away from.
“I thought he was a great person,” he told KTLA. “He spoke the truth, he said what needed to be said, he said what a lot of people were scared to say. It does offend a lot of people but the truth hurts.”