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DA: No officers charged in Hewett jail death


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- After a full review of security video and a SBI investigation, New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David has decided not to charge any officers in the jailhouse death of former Brunswick County Sheriff Ron Hewett.

In a news conference this morning, David and New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon released information about Hewett's death, including video of the moments leading up to his death.

"The only person who committed any crime, was Ronald Hewett," David said of the incident inside the jail July 12.

Click here to read the official summary, timeline and letter from medical examiner about Hewett's death

Investigators say Hewett began refusing meals on July 11 before refusing to see the jail's mental health staff July 12. The incident that preceded his death began as Hewett was heading to a visit with his mother and girlfriend.

"I want the community to know, like I know, how professional and well-trained your sheriff's office is," McMahon said.

After falling under public scrutiny over Hewett's death, McMahon decided to release the security video from the incident

"It's important that we maintain the trust and the confidence and transparency," McMahon said.

Security video shows hewett entering the jail's dayroom July 12 wearing nothing but his boxers.

"The deputies attempt by intercom to have him go back in and go do his visit," McMahon said while showing reporters the video.

hewett Refused. A deputy approached. That's when Hewett became combative and the deputy tased him, but Hewett immediately pulled out the prongs and went after the deputy again.

When backup arrived, Hewett attacked again. After tasing Hewett a second time, guards were able to control him, but the former lawman continued being uncooperative.

"You know it takes real talent to kill a man with a Taser," Hewett told the guards. "Y'all don't have the ba**s to step up to a man."

Moments later Hewett spoke out to a larger audience, his fellow inmates, as he pushed back against the officers.

"I didn't go down like a coward, boys," Hewett said. "Y'all got a fight."

Jail staff placed Hewett in his cell on suicide watch, which meant checking on him every five minutes. During the second check, which happened two minutes after the first check, a deputy noticed he was not moving. A supervisor decided several deputies would enter the cell for a welfare check in case Hewett was "playing possum." That visit happened three minutes after the second check, and officers noted Hewett looked blue. A nurse entered less than a minute later responding to a call for medical attention. She and deputies began CPR as EMS was called and arrived in about 15 minutes. Life-saving efforts performed for about 30 minutes, including the use of a defibrillator, failed.

Official results from Hewett's autopsy won't be available for weeks, but the medical examiner has ruled Hewett died of a heart condition made worse by chronic alcohol use and the stress of what happened and not the actual tasing.

"Sudden cardiac death due to Taser deployment would be immediate and not delayed by a number of minutes as happened in this case," David read from a letter from the doctor who performed the autopsy.

David said there were two things to consider in this case: Use of force and care of a person while they're in custody.

"The deputy that deployed the Taser and those who provided immediate backup acted consistent with well-established precedent to protect themselves and others," David said.

The DA said he spoke to Hewett's family and showed them the video earlier this week. He said they completely understand his decision.

Hewett was in federal custody in the jail awaiting a detention hearing after ATF agents arrested him after finding guns in his home. Hewett was not allowed to have a gun as a felon.

The US Marshal Service says they will continue to house inmates in the New Hanover County Jail.

NOTE: The small pool of blood on the floor next to Hewett in the photo above is from his hand where one of the Taser prongs hit, investigators say.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Isn't this a Direct Supervision Unit?

If it's a Direct Supervision Unit, how was an inmate allowed out of his cell without being supervised as to his appearance/well being/safety. Do you see what I'm pointing out? If this is the high security area. I think you guys need training on safety and security procedures. The whole chain of events is at best a procedural failure! I do not think the inmate was murdered, but I do think the sheriffs office has some incompetent deputies and leadership. That's not just coming from me but most law enforcement in the area.
The NHSO makes headlines about every two weeks with some idiotic headline they create!
I remember reading that this area had more law enforcement officers arrested than the Metro Atlanta area over a 24 month period. And that is with 4000 less officers!
That is a shame and should be looked into. But who should we believe NHSO's own internal affairs Lt. was just indicted for embezzlement from the Internal Affairs Association. But New Hanover hired him knowing he had done that before with WPD in the 70's. So enjoy your election selections you deserve them!

Ron Hewett

It has been stated many times during the investigation that Hewett was kept under tight security at the jail because he was a high profile inmate under federal custody. How then did he just walk right out of his cell into the common area? This doesn't constitute any security at all. Why was he even allowed outside of his cell if he was refusing food and obviously not following any rules at all? DA and the Sheriff don't even believe their own words.


was called on the intercom and told his visitors were ready and told to leave his cell and report to the deputy desk to be escorted to the visiting area. The doors are unlocked electronically. when the door was unlocked he came out in his skivvies.

People, you need to read the report. Also there are only 2 deputies assigned to a pod. Hewett did not follow commands from the first deputy, attacked him and was we all have seen the result.

There are not individual rules for each inmate. In my opinion he was treated as any other inmate is treated. That is as it should be. Again, read the reports,,,,in full.


Mr Hewett was a HIGH PROFILE prisoner of the Federal Government. He should have been treated differently!! What you have here is INCOMPETENCY of the highest level!! INCOMPETENCY from the DA of NHC, the Sheriff of NHC, all the way down to the lowest Deputy working at the Jail that Saturday Afternoon. All the tape shows is Mr Hewett fighting and getting tased! Show us what provoked Mr Hewett. Show us the tapes before the fighting and tasing begans. Show us what provoked this man who was about to go see His Mother and Girlfriend!! Show us!!!

Have you read the DA's

Have you read the DA's report? According to his investigation, nothing was going on until they opened Hewett's cell for him to go see his visitors. He walked out of his cell in nothing but his boxers. He refused to follow the commands of the deputy to get dressed. He was non-compliant and aggressive. The deputy did what he was supposed to do in order to subdue him.

Once he started the altercation, he was treated like every other inmate, as it should be. He was the aggressor and he should not be treated with kid gloves because of who he is. He is just as capable as any other inmate to harm a deputy. Because of his history in law enforcement, he was being segregated from the other prisoners. That is the only way he needed to be treated differently.

He is gone

I was raised on a farm and have been in the military have witnessed some pretty disturbing things in my life, but this video is extremely hard for me to watch, I ponder all the what ifs, and I realize that whether by his own hands or by others, he is gone. Should the world remember Ronald as the guy who achieved so much, he didn't just become a sheriff he gave jobs and inspiration to others he hired folks and recommended others. He inspired young folks with the Dare program and he welcomed a open hand to strangers. While his bright light may have become a shadow the good he did cannot be ignored. unless his comrades can take credit for all he did he must have bore some responsibility to keep us while we slept.

And while others can leap to the conclusion that his light was distinguished by his own hand, for my own reason, must believe that the burden of his success- the weight of the responsibility and the speed at which he achieved so much, laid waste to the Ronald I knew. The shear drive to fulfill those duties that were larger than the vision of his dream burned blankets over him and befell his version of reason.

I do not side with his actions, and while I grieve for my friend I find myself wondering if while he was watching over us who was watching over him, and as I watch my friend battling his own demons I wonder what value a life must have before, his downfall does not eclipse his achievements. And so I pray for his mother, his children and his love ones, I hope the good Lord will allow me some day to see my friend as he was, that his children will see him not as this video depicts, but as the man whom so many depended on at one time as they slept in peace. Goodbye my Friend.

Not being COMPLETELY honest...

I don't believe David really believes what he says. Or at least I think he would acknowledge the taser doesn't always kill immediately.

Not being totally honest, but I get it.

I don't believe David really believed what he was saying. Or at least he knows the taser often kills later.

Never any wrong doing

They generally never find any wrong doing in these cases. Rachel Maddow did a piece on this subject recently if you can bare to watch her/him, whatever. It actually wasn't bad to watch. Wish I had a link from about two weeks ago.

cold blooded murder

This is murder. This man needed medical attention and instead he was tased to death by cold blooded idiots. This is a perfect example of what is going on in the jail systems around here. We can only imagine the horrible things we are not seeing. It is inhuman to take citizens, charged with criminal offenses or not, off their much needed medications and neglect them. People are going to naturally have adverse reactions that will affect their behaviors when they do not get their medications, tasing them to death is not how to handle this. There is too much suffering, inhumane treatment, and deaths going on the jail systems in this area. They need to do away with the tasing, clearly it is being abused. It is clearly wrong for those in charge to think this is proper procedure and want to continue with this behavior. As far as this particular case, it appears this man was sent there to die. Hewett's charges were ridiculous and minor. This is corruption, I think Ben David is choosing to be blind.

The taser did not kill him.

The taser did not kill him. The stress of the situation caused his bad heart to fail. The taser would not have been necessary if he had not caused the altercation. It is not improper for the deputies at the jail to have tools to subdue the inmates when they become aggressive.

Taser Deaths

Do we have statistical information, reliable statistics, gathered over years, regarding taser related deaths? How many law enforcement agencies do you think really report the truth regarding them? As for the medical examiner's "opinion" that death would have occurred immediately if it resulted from the taser, does he have statistics to support his statement? My second question would be how does he define "immediate." I think within 30 minutes is immediate enough for me to say it played a role in his death. The man was tasered in the chest. I'm not an MD, just an observer but I don't see how the taser incident can be just "swept under the rug" as a cause of death. Do they think everyone is just stupid enough to buy their explanation? Next, he was refusing food and causing concern about his mental state as described in the interview. As a result, he was asked if he needed a psychological evaluation or intervention. Now I ask you, how many people who honestly need psychological intervention KNOW they need it? Isn't one of the tests of mental instability that you don't KNOW you're unstable? Last of all, where was the taser when he was laid on his chest in the cell and the nurse who had difficulty removing it had to ask the deputies for help? Was it still in his chest? Also, did she check his vitals? I didn't see a blood pressure cuff or anything else in her hands. Surely if a private citizen can pose these questions, there is an bunch of attorneys chomping at the bit to get a hold of this case.

The report states that the

The report states that the nurse removed the taser. The report also says that after she pulled off the taser that she intended to take his vitals, but he was still being aggressive to the point that she couldn't.

There were lawsuits concerning the use of tasers in these kinds of situations and the courts have upheld that the use of tasers is acceptable in helping to subdue unruly inmates. I would imagine that the lawyers involved would have provided statistics or else the courts wouldn't have ruled the way they did.

I think his brother Jon David called ATF

Just my opinion. May or may not have planned on Hewett committing suicide at the jail but reasonably may have considered it given Hewett's vow to commit suicide if set up or taken into custody ever again. Jon David has no respect for any boundaries of right to privacy or freedom from unlawful search and seizure, picks his target and operates mostly from community rumor, or the rumors he can generate by having officers sit on certain targets homes, has a decade long history of stirring big political firestorms with creating large warrants and cases from almost nothing, arresting certain targeted local well known people right at election time. Usually followed immediately by publishing a large media story that they are facing decades in state or federal prison. Few ever go to trial due to they all plea bargain and evidence is never shown based on the Fear of going to prison for decades for what he accuses them of doing. This event at Hewett's house is classic Jon. The Mitch character is possibly Mitch @ Baker & Slaughter.


seems everything that happened was due to hewitts actions. he knew what would happen and still chose to act that way. For people saying he needed to be committed you are a moron he spoke with medical staff when he arrived to the facilty as every inmate does, its also not uncommon for new inmated to refuse food and act aggressive .How about get a clue and stick to your job making french fries.

Predict a settlement of $500,000+

Sir, again I expect this case to result in civil action that I predict will be settled out-of-court -- it is too risky for the defense to get into trial with all the emotions, cross examinations, etc.

Imagine several retired LEOs from Atlanta and NYC giving expert testimony regarding proper use of tazers in this situation -- I don't imagine they'll give an A+ report card to New Hanover County detention staff.

Imagine several medical doctors from Johns Hopkins and Duke giving expert testimony regarding the effects of a 2nd tazer to the heart -- I don't imagine they'll give an A+ report card to New Hanover County detention staff.

Imagine Hewett's children sitting in the front row of such a trail - weeping.

Point is: Hewett's family will get a settlement, question is how much? I would predict loss of income plus punitive would equal $500,000+.

Jason, If you're gonna make

If you're gonna make such vicious attacks. At least be man enough to put your name on them.

Hewett's family will get a settlement

No, I'm not Jason (candidate for NHC Sheriff).
For the record, I like Ben David and the current Sheriff -- I support them. Bottom Line = Hewett's family will get a settlement.
It's the cost of doing business -- this stuff just happens.
Ben David's awesome, but there will still be a settlement. Mark my words.

"Mitch". Something tells me.

"Mitch". Something tells me. You, and all your fancy talk, will disappear in November.

If you really "liked" them,

If you really "liked" them, you would not be making baseless, cowardly, attacks against them. Why are you trying to sabotage them ?Especially in the light of such a tragedy. And if you know something the SBI doesn't. Be man enough to stand up and say it. I'll mark your words but I'll mark them as "JASON". We don't need a slick, double-talking, cold blooded snake.

Imagine This

IMAGINE- A baseless sabotage attempt. Against the Sheriff, his deputies, and the New Hanover Taxpayers. By a slick, clever, lawyer. In an attempt to make a political gain.

Brunswick Sheriff can ask FBI investigate who set up ATF raid

... to be sure no one inside the courthouse started this firestorm to get a county lawsuit started during the election. People in the Brunswick courthouse knew Ron Hewett had always said he would commit suicide in custody if he was ever set up again for Federal charges. Who pushed the button, made the phone call to ATF during the election?

Who pushed the button ?

Ron did. He wasn't set up; he committed the crime. Like most people, Ron Hewitt was a mix of both the positive and the negative. Unfortunately, in his latter years, it was more negative than positive.

One thing Ron Hewitt most certainly was not was a martyr. He was never Saint Ron of Arc. Stop trying to deify him. It only adds another bizarre layer to already sad affair.

Enuf said.

"The commission said last year that Allen J. “A.J.” Longsoldier Jr. suffered from the counties’ discriminatory indifference to his alcoholism (but not, as his estate had claimed, discrimination based on his being Native American) when they failed to provide medications as prescribed to stave off the effects of delirium tremens. In March, a hearing officer in the Montana Department of Labor and Industry said the counties were liable for $300,000 for Longsoldier’s emotional distress during a portion of the time in jail before he died"

If Hewett was going through untreated alcohol withdraw then I hope his family gets all this and more.

Sad ....

I'm not taking sides, but as soon as I saw this I could see that Ron Hewett was dying while he was being shackled and and put into cell ..he was not moving...look at the video..OMG !!! Then they put him in cell and he should have been taken to medical..where was the medical staff they say was there? We saw no medical staff checking his vitals after the incident...They put him in his condition, just tased numerous times,bleeding in a cell and left him to die... This man died needlessly and alone and no matter his crime ,,no one deserves to die this way. What about the suicide call ? They say he was in same position and turning blue..I think the suicide call was to cover up their lack of making sure this inmate was okay...something is wrong with this picture and McMahon will make sure it's covered he has covered up other things in his Dept....Election is near... Sad.....the Hewett family should sue for wrongful death,,,there's more to this that we will never see on video...

Go to the link provided and

Go to the link provided and read the DA's report. It shows the timeline of events and when the nurse was called in and what happened. I can't explain the mindset of the call to 911 being about a suicide, but from the information the DA released in conjunction with the video being released, there is nothing that is being covered up. The cameras were rolling from the time the altercation started until they discontinued CPR.

Hewitt's Family should sue -- and will likely win $$$$

Here are the reasons the New Hanover County Sheriff's Dept. may be sued over Hewett's death in custody:

(1) Gross Negligence in failing to treat Hewett for severe mental illness during the first 24 hours after he refused food and acted erratically -- an argument can be made that Hewitt should have been involuntary comitted to a mental health instition rather than jail.

(2) Gross Negligence during the altercation, in particular the second tazer struck near Hewett's heart -- a violation of the tazer's deployment instructions / jail protocol that did in this cause heart damage leading to death -- hence the "homicide" finding in the coroner's report. Furthermore, it may be argued that pepper spray would have been a better choice than a tazer -- imagine an expert witness physician (for example) ridiculing the choice of the second tazer and describing the effects of the current through the heart muscle -- it will move a jury to tears along with Hewlitt's orphaned children sitting in plain sight.

(3) Willful misconduct by deputies holding Hewett in a face-down position for several minutes in which his air passage was constricted. Further, whereas it may appear than Hewitt can't stand up since he is "uncooperative," a clever atty will spin this part of the video as evidence that Hewitt was already severely medically incapacitated after the second taze.

(4) Gross Negligence by failing to provide prompt medical attention after it became clear he was severely injured; no vital signs were checked until he became "blue," and paramedics took too long to arrive when there was likely to be other first-aid trained personnel in the premises that did not provide help.

I expect Hewitt's family will be a multi-million settlement -- and they deserve it.


Ever heard of contributory negligence? An example of contributory negligence is where a plaintiff actively disregards warnings or fails to take reasonable steps for his or her safety, then assumes a certain level of risk in a given activity. Sounds like Ron Hewett is guilty of that.

(1) Hewett refused to see a

(1) Hewett refused to see a mental health professional after he started refusing food.

(2) The "homicide" in the coroner's report is due to the fact that the altercation itself placed stress on his already damaged heart. If you will re-read the coroner's letter you will find that he specifically says that the position Hewett was held in did not lead to his death. He also says that the taser did not lead to his death. It was the stress of the situation that led to his death. Since another human being was involved, then the manner of death is considered a "homicide". A death from self-defense is also classified as a "homicide". That doesn't mean that the other person did anything wrong. If you will read the DA's report, you will find case history cited as to the legal and proper use of a taser in this kind of situation.

(3) Again, the coroner stated specifically that the position that they held him in did not cause his death.

(4) The DA's report indicates that a nurse was on the scene right after the altercation. She could not take his vital signs because he was still being aggressive. You will also find that the nurse was called as soon as they discovered that Ron Hewett's face was blue and arrived at the cell in less than a minute and the nurse and deputies began giving CPR then. They did not wait for the paramedics to arrive before trying life-saving measures.


"Mitch", and I believe you real name, is "Jason". Next time you make such an baseless, unfounded, attack. Please put your real, full, name behind it.

You have attacked our Sheriff, his deputies, and New Hanover County. Any slick, anonymous, coward, can throw mud. Or fire a shot in the dark.

I can't wait for November. Sheriff McMahon will win again. He stands behind his words, and actions. And we won't have to put up with anymore of your slick, lawyer-jargon, mud-slinging, tricks.