Officials investigating line-of-duty death, 2 years after struggle
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.-- A retired police officer's died over the weekend. And, now that death could turn into a criminal case. As we first reported on KIMATV.com it's believed his death was connected to an on-duty injury almost three years ago.
KIMA was there for a meeting with Yakima County's coroner and prosecuting attorney as well as the Wapato police chief. Video recording was not allowed.
His name was Derek Hansen. A 43-year-old man who was forced to give up on his career with the Wapato Police Department. Hansen collapsed on his driveway Sunday and died a little while later at Toppenish Community Hospital.
"We really didn't have a reason for this problem," Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins said. "There was no medical history. No cancer."
Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins and a medical examiner performed Hansen's autopsy. They were surprised by the findings.
"I thought he was kidding at first and then he convinced me that he was, he was serious," Wapato Police Chief Tracy Rosenow said.
Hansen died of blood clots in his lungs. Their surprise was the source. Hawkins says it's connected to an incident on the job more than two years ago.
Hansen injured his shoulder during a struggle while trying to make an arrest. The officer had surgery, but never fully recovered. It kept him from doing his job and pushed him into early retirement. The coroner says the scar tissue led to the clots.
"We're still in shock that more than two years later something that occurred as a routine call for service would end up taking the life of one of our officers," Rosenow said.
Hawkins along with Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Hagarty and Wapato Police Chief Tracy Rosenow met to discuss whether this could lead to criminal charges.
Medical records and the 2011 incident report will be used to determine if Hansen's death was a homicide. Hagarty tells me there is precedent for this, but it's not simple."
"It's a difficult stretch to make because of the intervening time," Yakima County Lead Prosecuting Attorney Jim Hagarty said.
Hansen started his career in law enforcement with the Zillah Police Department in 1998, then switched to Wapato. When he died, Hansen was engaged and left behind a 17-year-old son.
"We lost a brother, a law enforcement brother, a fallen brother," Hawkins said.
For now, one thing has been decided. That Hansen's death was in the line of duty.
KIMA has filed a public records request for the original incident report.
A memorial service for Derek Hansen will be held next Friday at the Nazarene Church in Grandview. "Behind the Badge" is helping with the arrangements.