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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.



Really trueblue clearly you have no knowledge of how modern jails are built. They dont put bars on the doors in modern jails, which the NHC Jail was built only a few years ago which makes it a modern jail. So tell me how they could taze him thru the bars when they dont have any bars. You are clearly a complete dumb $@# that has no knowledge about what really happened.

Well, Bob, all the pictures

Well, Bob, all the pictures I have ever seen of jails, there were bars. Even the statement was made in the write-up "when his cell was opened". Sounds like you might be the dumb $@# here.


I didn't call anyone a dumba$$. No. I'm not familiar with the modern jail or the pre-modern jail...thank God. I watched the entire online telecast of the video conference and I concluded the deputies acted the time. The question remains what triggered the behavior that Sheriff Hewett displayed. Did he receive a medical evaluation when he showed signs of distress prior to the incident Saturday. And I know the answer. He didn't. He wasn't allowed to take medicine prescribed for anxiety, nor was he given anything to lower his stress levels. If a different procedure had been followed when moving him would this incident have occurred? What happened between him and the 1st deputy off camera? Lastly, is it typical to be tasered in the heart? Twice? Those will be questions his family's attorneys can address and I hope a jury gets to decide. You, Bob. may get to sit on that jury but I doubt it. I imagine you lost that right a long time ago.

Jail Cells,,

This particular jail does not have bars, it has doors with a window. I toured this one when it was built. Never saw a set of bars anywhere. All doors.

Hewett was probably withdrawing from his alcohol-drug abuse, went into a funk and just lost it. That or finished him self off by suicide by cop. He may have felt something coming on and knew the exertion from a tussle could finish him or at least get him to the hospital.

We will never know.

Was he receiving any

Was he receiving any treatment for any alcohol and benzo with drawl he might be experiencing, if not, was his agitation due to the DTs? If so, how do they plan to deal with prisoners going through withdrawal in future? Its not like he is the only fat alcoholic with heart disease they will ever have to deal with-if tasers kill everyone with heart disease, why are we using them?

Why does it matter?

The jail shouldn't be responsible for helping him with DT's. People fight and overcome DT's everyday on their own. It said he was refusing mental help, which was his right to do. Whatever happened, it is done. Cops may not have followed procedure 100%, but Hewett wasn't helping the situation either. Get over it people. He was in the wrong, he is not a saint, he is not an angel....he was a normal human who made mistakes just like the rest of us do. His just cost him his life.

The DTs are a potentially

The DTs are a potentially fatal form of alcohol withdrawal which are a serious medical emergency, not a personal problem you can "work through on your own". If he was refusing medication for alcohol withdrawal for them he should've been involuntarily committed and forcibly medicated.
It sounds like most of the county is not aware of the severity of alcohol withdrawal and the importance of prompt treatment.

Thank you.. were I to be

Thank you.. were I to be incarcerated I might go through DTs. If something like this happened to me I'd hope my wife/family would just let it rest as that was my choice. This still falls under the category of "Fail to comply with an officer" = Your fault what happens next.

Considering that multiple

Considering that multiple juries throughout the US have already found that failure to treat the DTs is grounds for huge multimillion dollar payouts to the family, so I expect we will see lots of people pushing to say that "failure to comply with an officer" even if the inmate is in a potentially completely deranged state brought on by a medical condition which it was the State's responsibility to treat since he was in their care is a choice Hewett made-and most of them will be Leos. If he was in withdrawal it was not a choice and I really hope his family gets a good lawyer, and I hope no one else has to die this way in future because there is apparently no protocol in place to deal with this common life threatening condition in our prison system:

Drunks should not be condemned to death just because they have been arrested. As soon as he refused food that should've been a warning sign

"Officers need to be aware of symptoms of withdrawal that indicate a need for medical intervention. The three primary signs of early alcohol withdrawal are pacing, sleeplessness, and elevated heart rate (140+). Additionally, individuals withdrawing from alcohol typically do not have an appetite/frequently refuse food, tremble, and perspire profusely"