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DA: No officers charged in Hewett jail death

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — No officers will be charged in the death of former Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett in the New Hanover County Jail, District Attorney Ben David said this morning.

Hewett, 51, died July 12 while behind bars awaiting a hearing after ATF agents found guns inside his Supply home. According to David, the medical examiner ruled Hewett died of dilated cardio myopathy with contributing factors of chronic alcohol abuse and stress of subdual.

David said a deputy had to tase Hewett multiple times after Hewett acted aggressively toward jail staff. David said officers acted properly according to procedures.

According to the review of the incident, investigators say on July 11 Hewett began refusing meals on July 11 and refused to see mental health staff on July 12. On July 12, Hewett was scheduled for a visit with his mother and a female friend. As his cell was opened for that visit, Hewett emerged wearing only boxers, and jail staff told him to go back and get dressed. Hewett refused.

When a deputy approached Hewett, investigators say the former sheriff assumed a fighting stance. At that point, the deputy took out his Taser, but Hewett continued to refuse to follow commands and tried to assault the deputy. That’s when the officer fired the Taser, but it appeared to do little so subdue Hewett, at which point he pulled out the probes and tried to hit the deputy again.

When other officers arrived, Hewett tried to assault them. One deputy punched Hewett in self-defense, but Hewett kept trying to attack. Eventually he was tased a second time, which put him on the ground and allowed deputies to subdue him. Investigators say no choke hold was used or undue pressure was put on Hewett’s chest.

Guards took Hewett back to his cell, where a nurse checked him out, but said she would have to resume her exam later because of his agitation, including berating the jail staff. Hewett was put on suicide watch following the incident. During a follow-up check minutes later, a deputy became concerned that he was not moving. A couple minutes after that a deputy said he appeared blue, and life-saving care began quickly and continued for about half an hour.

Following Hewett’s death, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office’s internal investigation revealed that the personnel involved followed policies and procedures, according to Sheriff Ed McMahon. Hewett’s autopsy was performed in Greenville as the State Bureau of Investigation continued its probe into what happened.

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