EVERETT — When Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a man during a welfare check at an apartment last November, he reportedly was drunk, acting suicidal and appeared to be moving at them with a knife.
Detectives with the Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team recently completed an investigation into the death of Ryan Hemmingson. SMART is a task force of detectives assigned to investigate instances when police use potentially fatal force.
Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell said he’s received a copy of the investigation files but has yet to make a decision on whether to pursue or decline filing charges against the deputies. Such a review is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.
A summary of the investigation was obtained by The Daily Herald through a public records request.
Around 7:45 p.m. on Nov. 9, a man called 911 saying his stepfather, Hemmingson, had stabbed himself in the side with a knife about a half-hour earlier.
Hemmingson, 44, was intoxicated and a little combative, his stepson added.
Deputies responded to the apartment in the 100 block of 124th Street Southeast, south of Everett. One was armed with a less lethal pepper ball gun. They reported they were worried Hemmingson could bleed out due to the delay of the call. A deputy characterized the call as a welfare check to SMART investigators.
A deputy knocked and announced himself, “Police,” according to SMART documents. “Ryan if you’re in there call out, you’re not in trouble,” the deputy said.
There was no response. The door was unlocked. The deputy cracked it open. The deputy with the pepper ball gun was on the other side of the door. Four more were behind. Having been told that Hemmingson could be armed and violent, they drew their pistols, according to the SMART report.
A deputy told investigators that he called out to Hemmingson several times, saying they were there to help, and that he wasn’t in trouble. Deputies reportedly told Hemmingson to come out with nothing in his hands.
Eventually, a voice answered back, telling them to go away.
A deputy made more announcements.
“This is your last chance,” a voice responded.
A deputy described Hemmingson’s voice as “deep, angry, menacing and serious,” and as a possible threat to do harm.
Hemmingson came out of a room and walked toward the deputies at a “brisk pace,” with his hand behind his back, according to the SMART investigation. A deputy noted the blank stare on Hemmingson’s face. “His right shoulder and the right upper side of his body appeared to be extremely tense like he was holding something with his right hand behind his back,” a deputy reported.
Deputies reportedly told Hemmingson to stop and show his hands, but he kept advancing.
“He did not appear to blink and appeared solely fixated on me and the other deputies at the door,” a deputy said, according to documents. “His face appeared tense, and I would characterize his facial expression as someone filled with hatred, rage and determination.”
A deputy shot the pepper ball gun five to 10 times, hitting Hemmingson in the torso. He appeared unfazed, deputies reported.
Another deputy shot a handgun three times at Hemmingson from about 10 to 15 feet away.
Hemmingson fell down about five feet from the door. The deputies ordered him to show his hands. “I’m trying,” Hemmingson reportedly said.
After about 15 to 30 seconds, the deputies pulled him out of the apartment to attempt lifesaving measures. They applied chest seals to two gunshot wounds in the chest and gauze on an apparent knife wound in his side.
Deputies reported that they didn’t see a knife while Hemmingson was walking toward them. They did see a closed folding knife underneath him after they pulled him out.
Paramedics soon arrived and transported Hemmingson to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
According to the SMART report, Hemmingson had lived with his wife for seven months. She described him as an alcoholic, and “a fighter.” About two weeks before his death, she had confronted Hemmingson about drug paraphernalia she had found in his room. He reportedly promised that he wouldn’t use drugs again, and said he was tired and done.
Hemmingson’s wife told investigators that, at least earlier on, things had been notably positive on Nov. 9. They went out for breakfast and came back to watch football. They talked about buying a new home. She recalled thinking, “Ryan finally had a good day.”
The day apparently took a turn for the worse when they went to the Tulalip Casino. They had become separated when she got a call from Hemmingson, saying they needed to go because someone was hurt in the bathroom. “He fights a lot, he’s a fighter,” she told detectives. “My husband has just had a little bit of demons inside.” She didn’t ask questions.
The woman said she tried looking for her husband, but couldn’t find him. She drove home, poured out his alcohol and hid his keys.
When Hemmingson arrived, he was angry, according to his wife.
He yelled, asking where the car keys were. She said she wasn’t handing them over, because he was drunk.
He continued yelling. Eventually, he sat next to his wife on the bed. He grabbed a spring-loaded knife from an end table and stabbed himself with it, she told investigators.
He yelled at his wife and her son to leave. They did, and called 911.
Hemmingson’s criminal history includes 26 arrests, including six felonies, SMART detectives noted. Most recently, in March 2016, he was convicted of second-degree burglary and vehicle prowling. His other arrests involved eluding police, disorderly conduct, drug possession and numerous assaults.
SMART detectives found two spent bullets at the scene and three .40 caliber shell casings. The Snohomish County medical examiner extracted the third bullet from Hemmingson.
Detectives also found a folding knife on a bed in the master bedroom, and a handgun in the same room.
They recovered another folding knife from the floor where Hemmingson fell to the ground, and noted several spent pepper balls.
They counted six empty beer cans and two empty “airline-size” liquor bottles.
A Washington State Patrol lab report showed that Hemmingson had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.27. No drugs were detected.