The last week of Danny L. Hammond's life was a violent, drug-induced roller coaster of assaults, a possible suicide attempt, a lifesaving ride to the hospital and a fatal, final confrontation with the law, according to court records and relatives.
Hammond, who's blamed for the shooting death of a sheriff's deputy at St. Cloud Hospital early Sunday, nearly died by his own hand a few days earlier in an apparent drug overdose, said his sister Betty Johnson of Aitkin, Minn.
"He had so much drugs in him that he passed out on the floor," she said.
Hammond faced criminal charges in Aitkin County for holding his wife hostage at gunpoint after she told him Oct. 10 that she wanted out of their abusive marriage of 12 years, according to a criminal complaint.
Hammond, 50, went into a rage and held Korena Hammond hostage overnight, pointing a 9-millimeter pistol at her head. The next morning, she persuaded him to let her go.
For the attack, Hammond faced charges of felony kidnapping, second-degree assault and a host of firearms-related crimes due to a 1990 conviction for felony terroristic threats and a 2014 order for protection.
Aitkin County sheriff's deputies first spoke to Korena Hammond at her father's house Oct. 11, and then went to the Hammond home but found it empty. A day later, Hammond's son called 911 when he found his father unconscious on the floor of his house. Hammond was flown to the hospital by air ambulance.
Hammond was not in custody at the hospital, but the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office began monitoring him Thursday at the request of hospital staff.
According to the Sheriff's Office, Hammond got out of bed Sunday morning and struggled with deputy Steven M. Sandberg, 60. Hammond somehow took control of Sandberg's gun and fired several shots. Sandberg was fatally struck by at least one bullet. A hospital security guard shot Hammond with a Taser. Hammond fell unconscious and, despite lifesaving efforts, died in the hospital.
The shooting took place in a hospital that is renowned nationally for its efforts to protect patients and caregivers from assaults.
Hammond grew up near Aitkin with his six brothers and five sisters, according to Johnson.
He dropped out of school and had worked at a farm, but he was injured years ago and was living on disability, she said. He had four children, she said.
Hammond had used drugs since he was a teenager, possibly as young as 13, she said. "He's evil when he's on drugs," she said.
His behavior was one reason why she hadn't seen him in at least a year. Another relative who asked not to be named said she had cut off all ties to Hammond because of his behavior.
Johnson was torn Monday, saying that she felt some loyalty to her brother but that she was shaken by what he had done.
She said she never imagined he would take someone else's life.
"It's heartbreaking," she said. "I'm just so sorry for what happened to the deputy sheriff. My heart goes out to him and to his family. It's enough to make you cry."
When Korena Hammond spoke to deputies on Oct. 11, she reported that her husband had threatened to kill her the day before, after she told him she no longer loved him and wanted to leave. They had been together for 25 years and married for 12.
She said Hammond locked the doors, closed the windows and removed the window handles to their home at 32596 State Hwy. 47 in Aitkin County's Glen Township. He pointed the pistol at her head, saying they were together until "death do we part."
She said he forced her to eat food that he told her had been laced with rat poison. She escaped, but he caught her before she left their property. He pulled her back into the house by her hair and forced her to lie down with him while he held the pistol. He accidentally shot a bullet into their television, then fell asleep while holding her.
In the morning, he agreed to let her go to her father's house, where she called authorities.
Sheriff's deputies, including Sandberg, went to the Hammond home and found two air rifles, a .22-caliber pistol and an empty nylon holster for a 9mm pistol. Hammond's wallet and cellphone were there, but he was not found.
Following a string of incidents in 2010, St. Cloud Hospital made security assessments part of its electronic medical record system. Doctors and nurses were trained in de-escalation techniques to calm agitated patients, and a "Code Green" system was implemented for a rapid response to threatening situations. Extra security rounds and marks on the doors of high-risk patients are used, along with room assessments to remove any unnecessary equipment or objects that could be used as weapons.
Joy Plamann, the care center director who spearheaded the safety efforts, did not respond to questions on Monday. However, in prior interviews, she said the precautions were needed in a profession where the norm is to run toward a crisis to help.
Two incidents drew attention to the issue — the 2013 fatal shooting of an obstetrician at his Orono home by a man reportedly dissatisfied with his mother's care, and a rampage by a patient at St. John's Hospital in Maplewood in March who struck several nurses with a metal rod he dislodged from his hospital bed.
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