TACOMA, WA – Independent and concurrent investigations by the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, and Pierce County Sheriff’s Department regarding the death of Ronald Hillstrom, 44, have been completed. Hillstrom’s death was ruled an accident by the Pierce County Medical Examiner, and no charges will be filed.
On May 11, 2014, at approximately 9:46 p.m., police responded to 911 calls reporting Hillstrom was walking around an apartment complex in University Place with a knife or screwdriver, and acting in an agitated and strange manner. He was shouting for the police, and yelling that he was on fire and someone was out to get him.
When officers contacted Hillstrom in the parking area of the complex, he advanced towards them in an aggressive manner while holding a screwdriver. Hillstrom actively resisted the officers’ attempts to disarm and restrain him. Multiple officers used tasers, and fist, knee and flashlight strikes to subdue Hillstrom, but he continued to fight and resist. Officers reported Hillstrom thrashed around and even pounded his head onto the pavement. Hillstrom eventually became semiconscious. Once in custody, Hillstrom was transported to Tacoma General Hospital and went into cardiac arrest en route. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
An autopsy was performed by the Pierce County Medical Examiner. He determined the manner of death was an accident. Hillstrom’s death was attributed to a cardiac dysrhytmia. Factors that may have contributed to the dysrhytmia include cocaine use, excited delirium, an enlarged heart, and hypoxia from restraint and rib fractures.
Communications and Public Information Coordinator
Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office