The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 9, 2013

Family wants answers from police about 26-year-old man's death

By Robb Murray
Free Press Staff Writer

NORTH MANKATO — The family of a North Mankato man found unconscious at Hy-Vee and who later died says it wants answers from local police as to how he ended up in a coma while in police custody.

For now, authorities aren’t saying much about the investigation into 26-year-old Andrew Layton’s death, including what caused him to slip into a coma.

The only information released so far is that Layton was found unconscious in the grocery store entryway in the early morning of Jan. 1; became combative when awakened; was transported via ambulance to the Blue Earth County Jail where he was found to be not breathing and had no pulse; and was later revived and transported to the hospital where, police say, he was declared dead Jan. 5.

Somewhere in that sequence, says Layton’s uncle, Brad Hanson, are answers the family is looking for.

But for now, the veil of silence, otherwise known as a law enforcement investigation, is keeping the family from finding them.

Such silence is common. Law enforcement typically doesn’t publicize its progress or findings as it’s trying to solve a case. Still, Hanson says it is owed an explanation of how Layton died.

“His mother is distraught,” Hanson said. “This was pretty unexpected.”

He said they want to know why Layton was put into an ambulance for the ride to the jail. If he was in bad enough shape to be placed into an ambulance, Hanson asked, why wasn’t he taken immediately to the hospital?

Also, Hanson said, the family wants to know exactly when Layton stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions about how he died,” Hanson said.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the agency handling the investigation, did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday.

The family, meanwhile, remembered Layton as a hard-working young man who loved serving his country.

He was born in Panama City, Fla., in 1986. He moved around with his family, spending time in Japan and Alaska before the family settled in North Mankato. Layton attended Mankato West High School but didn’t finish.

After obtaining his GED, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves where he served as a combat medic, assigned to 492nd Engineer Company. He was honorably discharged in March 2012.

His family said he loved being outdoors, camping, hiking, fishing, four wheeling, snowboarding, repairing cars.  He was a craftsman, working as a handyman and carpenter.

Hanson said he’s not sure why Layton was found unconscious in the entryway of Hy-Vee. But he cautioned against assuming it was nefarious in nature.

While Layton did have a criminal record, Hanson said his nephew, as far as he knew, was clean recently. And he disagreed strongly with The Free Press’ decision to include pieces of Layton’s criminal past in its initial report.

“I didn’t think that was called for,” Hanson said. “There is a grieving family here, and a fatherless daughter. ... We don’t know the full story.”

He had worked for Hanson’s roofing company, and Hanson says he never had reason to doubt his work ethic or his performance.

“He wasn’t a saint,” Hanson said. “He was a human being like the rest of us.”