A St. Cloud Hospital security guard won’t be charged in the tasing of a sheriff’s deputy’s killer who died after the Oct. 18 altercation.
The Stearns County attorney’s office announced Wednesday that the actions of security officer Ricky Ray Hess Jr. were justified under the circumstances, in which a patient had snatched a deputy’s gun and fatally shot him.
Hess used his Taser to incapacitate the patient, 50-year-old Danny Leroy Hammond, which probably sent him into cardiac arrest, the report said. Despite immediate medical attention, Hammond died.
“The evidence clearly shows that Mr. Hess’s use of force during the incident was reasonable and authorized, and therefore no criminal charges will be filed,” wrote Michael Lieberg, chief of the county attorney’s criminal division.
Hammond had been hospitalized after a drug overdose and attempted suicide in Aitkin County.
At the request of hospital staff, his room was guarded by law enforcement officers until he was medically cleared for release.
Steven M. Sandberg, 60, a 24-year veteran of the Aitkin County sheriff’s office, was the deputy on duty that day. A struggle ensued around 5 a.m. when Hammond, who was not handcuffed, somehow gained control of Sandberg’s service weapon and shot him in the chest, investigators said.
Hess responded to the room, where he found Sandberg wounded and immobile on the floor, with Hammond lying nearby uninjured.
Hess proceeded to disarm Hammond, who refused to comply with his orders, according to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).
After several warnings, Hess fired his Taser at Hammond’s back, delivering a single five-second jolt. Hammond was then restrained and removed from the room to allow medical personnel to assist Sandberg.
Once in the hall, Hess noticed that Hammond was turning blue and apparently not breathing. He removed the handcuffs and began CPR.
Doctors took over, but Hammond could not be revived.
An autopsy by the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office indicated that Hammond died of “probable sudden cardiac arrest as a likely result of previous existing heart disease, additional heart issues caused by his drug overdose, the physical altercation with [Sandberg], and the use of the Taser.”
Investigators determined that Hess’ use of force was justified, as a Taser is considered a nonlethal weapon.
“The fact that the use of the Taser may have contributed to Hammond’s death alone does not make the use of the Taser unreasonable,” Lieberg said. “Officer Hess had no way of knowing of Hammond’s medical condition … or that those conditions would make him susceptible to cardiac arrest if he deployed his Taser.”