New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David held a press conference on Friday, Aug. 1 to relay the findings of the investigation into the death of former Brunswick County Sheriff Ron Hewett while in custody at the New Hanover County Detention Facility.
After reviewing video footage and interviewing the deputies on duty the evening of July 12, David said no deputies would be charged in relation to Hewett’s death. Shortly after being booked into the detention facility on July 10, Hewett began refusing meals and refused a visit from mental health professionals after he was observed displaying odd behavior in his cell.
After two other visits from his mother and a female friend, a third visit was scheduled for Saturday, July 12, at 2 p.m. Hewett indicated he was ready for his visit and released from his cell into a common area but was only wearing his boxer briefs. Deputies asked Hewett to return to his cell to put clothes on but he refused. A deputy then went to get Hewett to return to his cell but Hewett became aggressive, assuming a fighting stance and attempted to strike the deputy. The deputy began giving warnings to Hewett while holding out his Taser but Hewett continued to attempt to strike the deputy. The deputy fired the Taser at Hewett’s chest but he rolled on the floor in an attempt to remove the probes and continued to attempt to strike the deputy even after the deputy attmepted to stun him.
Additional officers arrived to provide assistance and Hewett also tried to strike a second deputy, who struck Hewett with a closed fist to defend himself, David’s report stated. The first deputy reloaded his Taser and hit Hewett with probes in his chest and right hand, which effectively brought Hewett down and officers were able to subdue him without excessive force, the report states.
All of the incident was captured on fixed cameras in the facility, as well as a handheld camera that was used by deputies while subduing Hewett and when they brought him back to his cell.
After the deputies took Hewett back to his cell and laid him face down on his sleeping mat he can be heard onthe video saying, “Yout know it takes real talent to kill a man with a Taser.” While kicking his legs out he also yells to other inmates, “I didn’t go down like a coward boys.”
Once in the cell a nurse was called into assess Hewett but could not complete her work because of his aggression and it was decided he should be placed on suicide watch. At that time David’s report stated Hewett showed no signs of trouble breathing.
On the second check of Hewett’s cell, which were ordered every five minutes, the deputy became concerned when Hewett was not moving. When deputies entered the cell deputies saw his face looked blue and it was determined life saving measures were needed. CPR efforts were started by deputies and the nurse, and continued by EMS and NHC Fire for 30 minutes after they arrived but to no avail.
In the preliminary autopsy report, Dr. William Oliver, the medical examiner for the case, stated the cause of death was dialated cardiomyopathy, which is sometimes seen in people who drink alcohol to a great extent. The other likely contributing factor to Hewett’s death was the stress on his heart from the incident and being subdued.
In accordance with a court order from Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. Allen Cobb Jr., Sheriff Ed McMahon released the surveillance videos at the Friday, Aug 1 press conference.