Timothy Scott Hanson

Crimes, Washington County Sheriff's Office

Woodbury man shot by officer had troubles to the end

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON and KEVIN GILES
  • Star Tribune
  • April 16, 2010 - 11:13 PM

Whether at work or at home, trouble -- and violence -- followed Timothy S. Hanson, the 55-year-old man shot to death late Thursday by a Woodbury police officer responding to a domestic dispute at Hanson's home.

The officer was among the first to arrive at the home at 11:23 p.m. in the 7200 block of Braemar Lane in western Woodbury. When Hanson fired first, said Lee Vague, Woodbury's police chief and public safety director, the officer fired back. At some point, the officer was also shot and wounded.

Shoua Thao lives next to the Hanson home with her husband and two daughters. She and her husband were sleeping, but one of the daughters who was awake reading heard screaming, then gunshots, jolting the family awake. Hanson had fallen to the ground just outside her daughter's window, Thao said.

"After the gunshots, we just crawled down and laid down on the floor," she said. Terrified but curious, her husband peered out the window to see the street full of police cars from agencies across the east metro and the officer being treated for a wounded left leg near his police car, she said. "This is the worst thing that's happened, ever," she added.

Officers were at the scene all night.

Vague declined to identify the officer, saying only that he is an eight-year veteran of the 65-member force and a member of the Washington County Special Response Team who has been honored many times, including for life-saving. He also declined to reveal how many people were in the home, or what triggered the disturbance.

But the address is familiar to Woodbury police: Over the past 20 months, they had been called there seven times -- five times for either a domestic dispute or disturbance, records show. The last was on Jan. 19. From 2000 to 2007, police had been called there about two dozen times. Hanson also had a history of problems at work and other places outside the home.

"It's a tragic situation," Vague said. "It's a situation we hope we never have." The last officer involvement in a shooting in Woodbury was about 10 years ago, he said.

Vague said that he visited the wounded officer at Regions Hospital in St. Paul Friday morning, and that he is doing well. A full recovery is expected.

"This officer did what [he] had to do," Vague said. "I don't know how [he] could have done a better job."

The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is handling the investigation, assisted by the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Vague said.

Investigators are waiting to interview the wounded officer before identifying him, BCA spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said. Because he has been medicated for pain, investigators must wait to gather information.

Autopsy results on Hanson from the Ramsey County medical examiner likely would not be available until Saturday, she said.

Verbal, physical assaults

Hanson's criminal record included convictions or arrests for terroristic threats, assault and drunken driving.

On Aug. 15, 2005, Woodbury police arrested him after he assaulted two young people outside a Woodbury movie theater. Hanson lunged at two of them -- referred to as "Gothic kids" in the criminal complaint -- on the assumption that they had bullied his 15-year-old son and had stolen his bike helmet.

Court records show he then punched a young man in the face, kicked a woman in the chest and waved a switchblade knife at them. He also threatened to kill them.

Hanson later pleaded guilty to making terroristic threats, a gross misdemeanor. Most of his one-year jail sentence was suspended for four years.

Hanson was a 25-year employee of St. Paul's Public Works Department, where he was a heavy-equipment operator, said Angie Nalezny, the city's human resources director.

His discipline record shows nine suspensions or reprimands, including some for being verbally abusive. City documents also show he was involved in five traffic accidents involving city vehicles.

In his last disciplinary incident, on June 22, 2005, Hanson became enraged at a parking enforcement officer blocking the path of his street sweeper, according to a suspension letter sent to him. "In her view, you became physically threatening, to the point where she called her police supervisor," the letter says.

One accident involving a city vehicle, which is not in Hanson's record, led to a wrongful-death lawsuit against Hanson and the city of St. Paul. The suit, filed by the family of the man who was killed, was subsequently dismissed.

In that Sept. 10, 2004, accident, Hanson was driving a flatbed semitrailer truck into the city yard near North Dale Street and Minnehaha Avenue W. An elderly man riding a three-wheeled motorcycle, and later found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.18 percent, hit the trailer and died.

'Fragile mental state'

After pleading guilty to charges in the 2005 theater incident, Hanson agreed to a psychological evaluation in an effort to get his sentence reduced. During the evaluation, Hanson said he couldn't get past the fatal accident and was devastated by it.

His despondency grew, leading to anger, heavy drinking and a condition a Washington County psychotherapist diagnosed as "adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features." The report says Hanson began having problems at work after that, but problems had been documented 10 years earlier.

Hanson completed alcohol treatment at Regions Hospital in 2005 but expressed concern about managing his anger, according to court records.

In 2006, his attorney described him as having a "fragile mental state."

The psychotherapist concluded: "His reaction to the bullying situation [involving his son] was certainly inappropriate and untypical of him, but I believe that he is willing to accept the consequences of that action."

A second mental health professional said traumatic events in Hanson's workplace, including disputes with two co-workers, affected his mental health. Hanson didn't seem to be "inherently dangerous," according to an assessment quoted in court papers.

Staff researcher John Wareham contributed to this report. • 612-673-7199 • 612-673-4432

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