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WCCO looks back at covering the death of Prince: "Did he really know how much he meant to people?"

WCCO remembers the day Prince died 8 years ago
WCCO remembers the day Prince died 8 years ago 03:54

MINNEAPOLIS — It's a moment in Minnesota history that shocked the world.

Eight years ago this week, music icon Prince died of an accidental painkiller overdose at his Paisley Park estate.

It was an emotional day for many Minnesotans and those of us who covered his death. WCCO reporter Reg Chapman and photojournalist Mike Durenberger were the first to arrive on the scene in Chanhassen on April 21, 2016.

"We were the only ones there, the streets were still wide open, you know, you couldn't tell anything was happening," Durenberger said.

RELATED: Film of Prince at age 11 discovered in archival footage of 1970 Mpls. teachers strike

Around the same time, WCCO's Esme Murphy was in a Carver County courtroom covering a murder trial when she noticed the mood change and Carver County deputies move out. 

"I remember being in that courtroom and just suddenly the deputies were running out and their pagers were going off, the radios were going off, my phone was going off," Murphy said. "I called the station and they said, 'Someone has died at Paisley Park and we think it's Prince, and we want you to go there right away.'"

Photojournalist Art Phillips was also sent to Chanhassen.   


"I wasn't necessarily convinced that this is really what was going on, but as I saw traffic and saw that stuff I'm like OK, there is something that was going on," Phillips said.

Durenberger and Chapman were the only news crews there when we saw sheriff deputies in tears standing outside the main entrance. Whatever they saw inside was enough to shake them to their core.

We were told to move back, and then learned it was Prince inside, and he was gone.

"You find out and wow, it then became surreal," Durenberger said.

"For me, it took a while to kind of take that in," Phillips said.

He paused for a moment to snap a picture of the media all lined up outside Paisley Park. 

Murphy and Chapman spoke with fans and neighbors about this tremendous loss. Before going live, Chapman called his long-time friend and comedian Dave Chappelle to tell him before announcing the news to the world. Prince had been a mentor and friend to Chappelle.

"And then the word spread and then it became very emotional, people were sobbing, people were crying," Murphy said.

She says focusing on work was what got her through the emotional overload of learning it was Prince gone. 

"What I realized there was how much Prince meant to so many people, and I remember thinking did he really know that? Did he really know how much he meant to people?" Murphy said.

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