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crimesider

Cops: New photos show Kurt Cobain suicide gun

SEATTLE --Seattle Police released new photographs on Thursday of Kurt Cobain's shotgun, which the King County Medical Examiner's Office ruled he used when he committed suicide nearly 22 years ago in April of 1994. The shotgun hasn't been seen before publicly.

The photos, taken recently, show Seattle Police Department cold case homicide Det. Michael Ciesynski, the current detective of record for the Cobain case, holding the shotgun in various positions.

In 22 years since Cobain's suicide, the SPD has released more than one hundred pages of police reports and photos relating to the rock star's suicide file, but never photos of the weapon, except for certain crime scene photos that reveal a partial view of the shotgun.

The release of the shotgun photos -- in response to a public records act request from CBS News -- dispels a rumor propagated by conspiracy theorists that the shotgun had been melted down to hide evidence in a supposed SPD cover up of a potential murder.

Cobain's body was found on April 8, 1994, in a greenhouse room above the detached garage to his home in the upscale Lake Washington neighborhood of Seattle. He was clutching the shotgun which had killed him, the bullet striking his head through his mouth.

The international rock sensation was wearing blue jeans, and purple Converse All-Star sneakers. He had just injected a lethal dose of heroin, and his drug kit was sitting at his side inside a cigar box.

Two years ago, on the 20th anniversary of Cobain's death, during a review of the Cobain file, Ciesynski developed three rolls of crime scene film which sat idle in the Cobain file since the day of his death. Those photographs were first seen on Crimesider and CBS News.

Ciesynski explained in 2014 that when he learned there was undeveloped film, he decided to develop it before it might become damaged and potential evidence lost. The film had deteriorated after 20 years and the developed photos had a distinct green tint.

Despite initial determinations by the coroner and the Seattle Police Department that the Nirvana front man killed himself, a range of fans and conspiracy theorists have refused to accept the death as a suicide.

Last year, a film questioning the SPD's investigation of Cobain's death, Soaked in Bleach, was released to mixed reviews. The film presented the theories of Los Angeles private investigator Tom Grant, who had been hired by Cobain's wife Courtney Love to find the rock star during the days before his death.

"The SPD deliberately lied and deliberately covered up the results of their investigation. The case needs to be changed from suicide to undetermined," Grant told Crimesider during a recent interview about the shotgun.

The film, now available on Netflix, featured various law enforcement and forensic experts questioning the suicide determination and calling for the SPD to re-open the case to re-investigate the possibility of murder.

One noted official was former SPD police chief, Norm Stamper.

"It's about right and wrong. It's about honor. It's about ethics," Stamper says in the film. "If we didn't get it right the first time, we damn well better get it right the second time, and I would tell you right now if I were the chief of police, I would reopen this investigation."

The former chief's comments attracted international headlines when the film was released last year, although Stamper never took this step during the time he was Seattle police chief, from 1994 to 2000, when he could have ordered such a review.

In 2014, the SPD released a report by Ciesynski, who reviewed the Cobain file and recovered additional evidence, concluding, "The investigation on the death of Kurt Cobain, which was conducted 20 years ago, reached the correct conclusion that the manner of death was (suicide)."

Grant, a former cop with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, formed the opinion that Cobain was murdered in the months following his death. At the time, Grant revealed that he had recorded 30 hours of conversations between himself and Courtney Love, as well as others. During that time, Love had hired the private investigator to find her husband, who had left his drug rehab program in Los Angeles before completing it.

The film Soaked in Bleach -- a double entendre meant to refer to a heroin addict's need to soak injection needles in bleach to clean them, or the allegation that a murder was covered up -- is based in large part on Grant's ongoing examination of a purported conspiracy and those tape recordings of his interactions with Love and others shortly after Cobain's death.

The shotgun has been part of the legend upon which the conspiracy theories are built. Shortly after the singer's death, Love told CBS affiliate KIRO that she would give the shotgun and other guns owned by her husband to the advocacy group Mothers Against Violence, to melt them down.

"I don't obviously want to keep them and hopefully by turning over these things I can make a difference and I can make some sense out of something so bereft of sense at all," Love said, according to an AP report from April 21, 1994.

"She tried to put herself in a good light as a benefactor for this group, when in fact it was an effort to destroy evidence," says Grant. "All of the evidence indicates that Cobain was murdered and all of the evidence indicates that the SPD covered it up."

For 20 years, Grant has cited destruction of the shotgun as part of his argument that there was a cover-up. He seemed surprised when informed by Crimesider that the SPD would release current photographs of the shotgun indicating that it was still in police possession.

"You're kidding. ... One more example of SPD reports conflicting with the truth," Grant said referring to his belief that the SPD had authorized destruction of the shotgun - a view he's espoused on his website, in a widely distributed handbook, and in the film.

However, Crimesider's review of the SPD file prompted Grant to concede that the police report referred instead to other guns confiscated from Cobain's home by the police - not the shotgun that killed Cobain.

"I guess I have some explaining to do," said Grant.

"I suppose some people will say I am not reliable because I got one thing wrong," he continued, undeterred in his belief that the totality of the evidence "indicates Cobain was murdered" and that the SPD should re-open the investigation.

During an interview with Crimesider for the 20th anniversary of Cobain's death, Det. Ciesynski dismissed the murder conspiracy theory, alleging such theories are based on false information. "A conspiracy theorist takes a little bit of truth and mixes it up with completely fabricated information and that's how these conspiracy theories then progress based on false information."

The SPD didn't immediately comment on the release of the shotgun photos when Crimesider contacted them today.