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Track star dies; signs indicate overdose

The death of an Ashland man on Sunday night remains under investigation, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said this morning.

While Nick Ryan Hanson&

s friends and family believe the 24-year-old Southern Oregon University student took his own life, autopsy results will not be available until Thursday. The cause of death is complicated because Ashland Police Department officers shocked Hanson with a Taser just before he died. Hanson died at Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford.


I haven&

t heard any of the findings. I&

m suspecting, because the indications are, he ingested something that poisoned him. We may have to wait weeks to get those labs back,&

APD Chief Mike Bianca said.

Hanson was conscious en route to the hospital, but his condition rapidly deteriorated as the ambulance pulled into RVMC, according to the sheriff&

s office. Attempts to resuscitate him failed, and he was declared dead at the hospital, sheriff&

s officials said.


I did know he was upset and depressed,&

said friend Sammy Calterbros, 24, who talked to Hanson just before 9 p.m. Sunday.

His father, Ron, called his son on Sunday night after Nick Baron, Hanson&

s high school best friend, phoned the family about the conversation he&

d had with Hanson.


He seemed a little bit different. I just thought I&

d call them up,&

Baron said, adding he didn&

t expect the fatal outcome. &

I was like, maybe he was just in a weird mood and nothing would come of it.&

Ron Hanson spoke with his son for a while while Joni, Hanson&

s mother, waited. When Ron gave a thumbs up, Joni thought the son they had adopted from Sao Paulo, Brazil, when he was eight years old would be OK.


Then Nick fell apart, so my husband told me to go call 9-1-1,&

Joni Hanson said, explaining Ron stayed on the phone with him while police responded.


s mother called 9-1-1 at 9:20 p.m. Sunday, concerned about her son&

s mental state. Hanson had attempted suicide in fall 2004 and, on Sunday night, his desire to end his life was &

for pretty much the same reasons,&

Joni Hanson said.

Hanson, a health and physical education major, was close to graduation, but failed a class he needed to receive his degree. The former SOU track and field two-time All-American had also exhausted his athletic eligibility.


He didn&

t know what he was going to do, how he was going to support himself,&

Joni Hanson said. &

I guess just scared of the future.&

Police arrived at Hanson&

s Lincoln Street apartment at 9:35 p.m. Hanson locked himself inside the residence and wouldn&

t let officers inside.


Nicholas knew why they were there,&

Calterbros said. &

I would be scared, too.&

At some point in the night, Hanson ingested medication. Police found two empty bottles of Benedryl in his apartment. He had been prescribed medication to control seizures.

When Hanson&

s parents lost contact with him &


re not sure if he dropped the phone or just stopped talking &

police broke down the door. The three officers who responded to the apartment saw Hanson drinking something, according the sheriff&

s department.


He would not open the door for them,&

Joni Hanson said. &


m sure there was a struggle.&

Hanson became combative with the officers and one Ashland officer shocked Hanson with a Taser to subdue him, according to the sheriff&

s department.


That came about because of his charging at the officers and aggressive manner,&

Bianca said. &


d been displaying a lot of anger and frustration. He would not comply with the commands to stop so the officers, from what I understand, were threatened by him.&

Paramedics from Ashland Fire Rescue waiting at the scene transported Hanson to RVMC. If the night had gone like Hanson&

s previous suicide attempt, he would have been stabilized, then transferred to 2 North for a mental health evaluation.

However, Hanson faltered as he got to the emergency room. Emergency medical crews tried for a half-hour to save him, according to his mother.


It was surprising,&

Baron said. &

But on the other hand, he&

d tried to do it before. I just don&

t think he was in the right mind ... I just don&

t think he was thinking clearly at all.&

Investigators suspect the medication Hanson consumed caused his death. Complete toxicology results will not be available for several weeks.

Meanwhile, a multiagency team led by the sheriff&

s department is investigating Hanson&

s death.

The police department&

s handling of high-profile events recently has drawn public criticism and, in October, a group of residents proposed a city ordinance limiting the amount of force APD officers can use.

Joni Hanson feels the officer&

s actions were appropriate and said her family does not blame police for their son&

s death.

Using a Taser to gain control of a situation like Sunday night is &

acceptable and good deployment of the Taser,&

according to Bianca, who said his department will complete an internal review of its procedures.

One of the APD officers present Sunday night has been put on light duty because of injuries she sustained when breaking down Hanson&

s door. The two other officers remain at work. Officers aren&

t put on administrative leave for use-of-force cases like this, according to Bianca.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 225 or jsquires@dailytidings.com.