EVERETT — The family of a man killed by Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies in 2019 is suing the county.
Deputies shot and killed Ryan Hemmingson, 44, during a welfare check at an apartment south of Everett in November 2019. The Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team, a task force of detectives assigned to look into police use of potentially fatal force, investigated the case. It found Hemmingson was drunk, seemed to be suicidal and appeared to be moving at them with a knife.
Hemmingson’s wife filed a $10 million claim for damages with the county in August. In November, in King County Superior Court, she filed a lawsuit against Snohomish County, Sheriff Adam Fortney and the involved deputies. And late last week, that case was moved to federal court at the county’s request.
“The county’s been served with the lawsuit,” said Jason Cummings, chief civil deputy prosecutor for the county. “We’re reviewing the allegations and will defend the county accordingly.”
The law firm Buri Funston Mumford & Furlong filed a 16-page complaint describing the deputies’ actions on that night as “negligent, reckless, outrageous, and deliberately indifferent to Mr. Hemmingson’s civil rights.”
The sheriff’s office declined to comment, the usual policy for pending litigation. Ty Trenary was the sheriff at the time of Hemmingson’s death.
On the morning of Nov. 9, 2019, Hemmingson and his wife of seven months went out for breakfast before coming back to watch football, she told SMART investigators. They talked about buying a new home.
“Ryan finally had a good day,” the wife said, according to the SMART report.
Between 4 and 5 p.m., they went to the Tulalip Resort Casino. They had become separated when she got a call from Hemmingson, saying they needed to go because someone was hurt in the bathroom, according to the investigation. She didn’t ask questions. She said her husband “fights a lot, he’s a fighter.”
“My husband has just had a little bit of demons inside,” she reportedly added.
The woman said she tried looking for her husband but couldn’t find him. Around 7 p.m., she drove home, poured out his alcohol and hid his keys.
About 20 minutes later, Hemmingson got home. Angry, he asked where his keys were. She told him she wouldn’t give them to him.
The wife texted her son that she needed help.
Eventually, Hemmingson sat next to his wife on the bed. He grabbed a knife from an end table and stabbed himself in the side, she told investigators.
He yelled at her and her son to leave. They left and called 911 around 7:45 p.m.
A half-dozen sheriff’s deputies arrived a few minutes later at the apartment in the 100 block of 124th Street SE, according to the lawsuit against the county. Hemmingson’s stepson reportedly asked them not to storm into the house. He urged them to de-escalate the situation, the complaint says.
“He was rebuffed and told to stay out of the way,” the lawsuit alleges.
A deputy knocked on the door and announced himself.
“Police,” the deputy said, according to SMART documents. “Ryan, if you’re in there call out, you’re not in trouble.”
Hemmingson didn’t respond. The door was unlocked, so the deputy cracked it open. Another deputy was on the other side of the door, armed with a pepper ball gun. The four others were behind. Having heard Hemmingson could potentially be violent, they drew their pistols, according to the SMART report.
One of the deputies told investigators he called out to Hemmingson a few more times. The deputy reported he told Hemmingson to come out with nothing in his hands.
Someone from inside told the deputies to go away.
A deputy made several more announcements.
“This is your last chance,” a man’s voice responded, according to the SMART investigation.
One deputy described the voice, attributed to Hemmingson, as “deep, angry, menacing and serious.”
Hemmingson came out of the room and walked toward the deputies at a “brisk pace” with his hand behind his back, according to SMART records. They thought he was hiding something. Deputies reportedly told him to show his hands.
A deputy shot Hemmingson with the pepper ball gun five to 10 times in the torso. He didn’t seem fazed, deputies told investigators.
Another deputy shot him three times with his handgun from about 10 to 15 feet away. Hemmingson fell down about five feet from the door where the deputies were. They told him to show his hands.
“I’m trying,” Hemmingson replied.
About 15 to 30 seconds later, deputies pulled him out of the apartment to attempt lifesaving measures. They applied chest seals to two gunshot wounds and gauze on an apparent knife wound in his side.
Deputies told investigators they never saw a knife during the encounter. They did see a closed folding knife under Hemmingson after they pulled him out. Detectives later found another knife and a handgun in the bedroom, according to the SMART report. They also found six empty beer cans and two empty mini liquor bottles.
Paramedics took Hemmingson to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. He died at 8:30 p.m., less than an hour after Hemmingson’s family called 911, according to the lawsuit.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Hemmingson had a blood-alcohol level of 0.27. No drugs were detected in his system. He died of gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen.