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Parents weigh lawsuit

Ron and Joni Hanson, whose son Nick died after taking sleeping pills and then being tased by Ashland police, might sue the City of Ashland "for actions that caused and/or contributed" to the death of their son.

They filed a notice of their potential lawsuit with the city on Jan. 21 of this year, one day before the first anniversary of Hanson's death and one day before the statute of limitations ran out on their ability to file the notice.

"We herby give notice to preserve our rights to possibly sue for his wrongful death," Hanson's parents wrote in the notice of their intention to sue, which was addressed to the city attorney's office, Ashland Police, Ashland Fire and Rescue and Ashland Community Hospital. "Police used a taser when doing so was unnecessary, and ambulance personnel failed to administer proper life-saving care. As a result of the use of the taser, and the failure to use appropriate life-saving procedures, Nick Hanson died."

Ashland City Attorney Mike Franell and City Claims Adjuster Sharlene Stephens said it is possible that they will never file the actual suit, because of the circumstances by which the city was put on notice. Both said the Hansons had one year to put the city on notice about their potential to file a law suit, which they did one day before their window expired.

"Maybe nothing will come of this," Stephens said.

Nick Hanson was a 24-year-old Southern Oregon University track star when he died on Jan. 22, 2006. He struggled with bouts of depression throughout his life, and took an overdose of sleeping pills the night of his death. A Jackson County coroner ruled that it was the pills that caused his death.

His parents, who live in Bend, found out that their son had taken the pills and called Ashland Police. Hanson was on the phone with his parents when APD arrived. When his parents lost contact with him, APD officers broke down the door to his Lincoln Street apartment to check on him.

Officers ended up using a Taser, a weapon used to electrically shock people into submission, to control Hanson.

"That came about because of his charging at the officers and aggressive manner," former APD Chief Mike Bianca said in 2006. "He'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."

Hanson died on the way to the emergency room in an Ashland Fire and Rescue ambulance.

He was a two-time track and field All-American who was only a few credits short of graduation when he died.