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Young rapper Juice Wrld cause of death undetermined after autopsy; police say drugs found in luggage from his jet

Hannah Yasharoff and Maria Puente, USA TODAY

The cause of death of the rising young rapper known as Juice WRLD, who suffered a medical emergency Sunday at Chicago’s Midway International Airport, is still pending after an autopsy Monday.

But Chicago police said Monday that city, state and federal agents searched luggage on his plane and allegedly found large quantities of marijuana and some suspected liquid cocaine.

The county medical examiner's office said more tests are required before ruling on what led to the death of the 21-year-old, whose legal name was Jarad A. Higgins. 

"The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined that additional studies are required to establish the cause and manner of death for 21-year-old Jarad A. Higgins," said Natalia Derevyanny, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, in an emailed statement to USA TODAY. "Additional studies include cardiac pathology, neuropathology, toxicology and histology. The cause and manner of death are pending at this time."

But the mystery surrounding Higgins' death deepened Monday after Chicago police released an account of what happened at the airport before Higgins was stricken. The account was emailed to USA TODAY by Chicago police Officer Michelle Tannehill.

In this file photo, Juice Wrld attends the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards on August 20, 2018.

According to the Chicago police account, they were called to assist federal and state agents who were at the Midway private jet terminal early Sunday to meet an arriving jet that may have "contained a large amount of narcotics."

"Upon CPD arriving, the occupants of the target plane were standing in the lobby with luggage loaded on two luggage carts," the statement said. "Illinois State Police K9 Unit began a search which immediately indicated a positive narcotics alert on a suitcase on the first cart. The K9 officer then conducted a search on the second cart of luggage with another positive alert of narcotics. "

After a search of the luggage, investigators allegedly found 41 bags of suspected marijuana and six prescription bottles of suspected liquid cocaine, along with three firearms. Nobody at the terminal claimed ownership of the luggage, police said.

"During the investigation, a 21-year-old male suffered a medical emergency, causing him to have a seizure," the statement continued. "The report indicates that a Homeland Security Officer administrated Narcan to the victim. The victim was later pronounced (dead)."

On Monday, a Homeland Security spokeswoman in Chicago, Nicole Aberico, confirmed to USA TODAY that an immigration agency is investigating the events surrounding the death but would not say why.

"ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) is unable to provide comment at this time as this matter is under investigation," Alberico said in an email. 

According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website, HSI is an investigative agency with a mission to combat "criminal organizations illegally exploiting America's travel, trade, financial and immigration systems."

Meanwhile, Chicago police announced that two security guards who were with Higgins when he died were arrested on gun charges. The arrests are not related to Higgins' death, police said. 

Harry Dean, 27, of Chicago, and Christopher Long, 36, of Buena Park, California, were charged with misdemeanor gun counts after police found three guns, a high-capacity magazine and metal-piercing bullets. Even with a state conceal-and-carry permit, it does not allow them to possess guns in an airport, police said.

Both men are due in court Dec. 30. It wasn't immediately known if they had lawyers who could comment.

Higgins' birthday was only days earlier, on Dec. 2. He was just two years out of high school and was considered an up-and-coming rapper. 

Higgins celebrated his birthday on Twitter. "ONE OF THE BEST BDAYS (AND) IT STILL AINT OVER," he tweeted just after midnight. 

Higgins and a group of about a dozen people had just landed in a private hangar operated by Atlantic Aviation at Midway when he was taken ill suddenly early Sunday.

TMZ on Monday published videos of the rapper and his entourage on the plane, smiling at the phone camera and looking well.  

Higgins was transported from the airport to an area hospital after suffering what Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said was cardiac arrest.

He was pronounced dead about two hours later at the hospital.

Chicago police launched a death investigation and later said there were no signs of foul play. Police said those aboard the aircraft were cooperating with authorities. 

The Chicago native, who was named top new artist at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards in May, lived in the Chicago suburb of Homewood.

He launched his career on SoundCloud before becoming a streaming juggernaut and rose to the top of the charts with the Sting-sampled hit “Lucid Dreams.” It was a six-time platinum success and peaked at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 100.

“I was very impressed by what he put on top of (my version),” Sting told The Associated Press this year. “It’s a really good song.”

His second studio album, "Death Race for Love," debuted in March and reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. 

He had performances scheduled for Dec. 14 in Los Angeles and Dec. 31 in Minneapolis. Earlier this year, he toured with Nicki Minaj on the Nicki Wrld Tour in February and March. 

In a statement to USA TODAY provided by Universal representative Hannah Haines, Interscope Geffen A&M Records, which represented Juice Wrld, mourned the artist. 

"Juice made a profound impact on the world in such a short period of time," the statement read. "He was a gentle soul, whose creativity knew no bounds, an exceptional human being and artist who loved and cared for his fans above everything else. To lose someone so kind and so close to our hearts is devastating. Our thoughts are with Juice’s family and friends, everyone at his label Grade A, and his millions of fans around the world."

Juice fans and fellow artists mourned the rapper on social media Sunday after the news broke.

"I would like to see all the younger talent live longer and I hate waking up hearing another story filled with blessings was cut short 😢" Drake wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of Higgins. 

"He knows our hearts," Chance The Rapper shared on Instagram along with a photo of Juice. "Millions of people, not just in Chicago but around the world are hurting because of this and don’t know what to make of it."

Lil Nas X paid tribute with a cover performance of the late artist's hit song “Lucid Dreams” during a San Francisco concert, sharing a clip of the moment on Twitter.

Contributing: Associated Press 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Juice Wrld cause of death undetermined more tests required