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Local Paper's Take on Former Samohi Star Tyler Skaggs' Death Sparks Outrage

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

July 3, 2019 -- A Santa Monica newspaper's speculation that Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died of an opioid overdose was quickly denounced by the team and police, sparking international headlines.

The story was published online by the Santa Monica Observer shortly after news broke Monday that the former Samohi star had been found dead in his Texas hotel room ("Angels Pitcher, Former Samohi Star Found Dead at Age 27," July 1, 2019).

The story by Stan Greene -- which has been removed from the paper's website -- referenced other mysterious deaths that ultimately proved to be drug related.

On Wednesday, Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey called the story "categorically incorrect."

"The cause of death is still under investigation," Garvey said. "This sort of reckless reporting from Tyler’s hometown paper is disappointing and harmful.”

The cause of Skaggs' death remains unknown pending the results of the autopsy begun Tuesday by the Terrant County (Texas) Medical Examiner, as well as toxicology and other tests.

Skaggs' family has requested that any autopsy information be withheld until the medical examination, which will take up to 90 days, is completed, according to a report in USA Today.

On Wednesday, the British tabloid the Daily Mail reported that the original article posted on the Observer's website was amended to exclude the speculations about Skaggs's death.

In response to the Daily Mail's request for comment, the Observer shared a letter from the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis written on behalf of the Angels.

"Our representatives have repeatedly advised you that your article was not only blatantly incorrect, but deeply harmful to the Skaggs family and the Angels community,' the letter said. "You first falsely claimed that the police reported finding drugs in his room.

"After the Southlake police confirmed it made no such finding, rather than apologize and take the article down, your reporter made matters worse by then speculating -- with zero facts to support your speculation -- that Tyler died due to an opioid overdose from multiple prescriptions like Tom Petty."

The Daily mail was able to piece together sections of the story from social media posts that confirmed the Observer story referred to both Petty's death in 2017 and that of former Angels pitcher Tommy Hanson, who died of a cocaine overdose in 2015.

The Observer's story wasn't the only headline-grabbing take on Skaggs' death that sparked offense.

On Wednesday, Fox News reported that the Tyler Skaggs tribute hashtag on Twitter -- RIP#45, referring to his number -- had been overtaken by Trump haters.

"Some on the social media network who saw the trend thought President Trump, the 45th president of the United States, had died while others took delight in that notion," Fox News wrote.

Adweek, which broke the story on Tuesday, reported that attempts to pay tribute to Skaggs "quickly went awry."

"Tweets paying respects to Skaggs and sending thoughts and prayers to his family ended up intermingled with tweets mocking Trump’s 'death,' tweets blasting people for doing so and tweets reminding people what the actual purpose of the hashtag was," reporter David Cohen wrote.

Meanwhile the baseball world continued paying tribute to the 27-year-old lefthander, whose mother Debbie is a Samohi physical education teacher and former softball coach.

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