By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Friends of a man who died a fews days after a confrontation with police at the downtown Hy-Vee say he could have been suffering from a head injury received earlier in the evening when he was discovered lying in the grocery store’s entryway.
People who were with Andrew Layton New Year’s Eve night and early Jan. 1 said he had been in a fight about 90 minutes before he was found at 4:40 a.m. at the downtown store. Layton’s heart stopped after he was taken into custody by police. He was revived but never came out of a coma and died at the hospital Jan. 5.
Police had received a report about a fight at the Security Apartments, 307 S. Broad St., at about 3:10 a.m. Jan. 1, according to police records. One of the police officers who responded to that call, Kyley Groby, was one of the police officers the Department of Public Safety listed as being involved in the incident at Hy-Vee.
Layton, 26, of North Mankato had been at a party at an apartment in the complex and left to make a call, said Tonya Lindmark, who was at the apartment and loaned him her cellphone. Lindmark said Groby questioned her friends when they went outside looking for him.
“My friends were on the phone with him when they ran into the officer,” Lindmark said. “They told her where he might be and she admitted right there that they were looking for him because of the fight.”
Layton’s friends already had found blood in a hallway and a broken radiator as they were going outside, Lindmark said. They talked to two people who said the fight started after Layton said something to them. Those men also said Layton threw the first punch.
“We were thinking, because of all the blood, he was hurt pretty bad when he left,” Lindmark said. “When they were talking to him on the phone, he could barely talk. When they asked him where he was, he said he thought he was in a parking lot.”
Dennis Taylor, Security Apartment manager, said there had been an incident involving Layton at the complex the morning of Jan. 1. He also said he “had to clean some stuff” but wouldn’t comment any further about what happened.
Lindmark doesn’t think Layton was drunk or under the influence of drugs when he left the apartment. He had a history of drug use that contributed to criminal charges in the past, but his uncle, Brad Hanson, said he had stopped using. Hanson also said his sister and Layton’s mother, Cheri Hanson, were told by hospital staff that Layton had no drugs and only a relatively small amount of alcohol in his system when he arrived at the emergency room.
Lindmark wasn’t surprised by that information. Layton had left the party for awhile to go downtown, she said. But he was with another friend that he was watching because she had been drinking. When they both returned to the apartment at about 2:30 a.m., Layton seemed fine, Lindmark said.
“There was no stumbling, no slurred words. He looked just fine,” she said. “And I was sober.”
Layton was using Lindmark’s phone when he left to make a call. Her call log showed he called two numbers that were disconnected, three or four cab companies and his mother while he was gone, Lindmark said. The last call was about 4:20 a.m., or about 20 minutes before police were called to Hy-Vee.
“He was just trying to get home,” she said.
Police officers were called to Hy-Vee for a report of a suspicious person, according to police records. Layton was found unconscious in the store’s entry and became combative when officers woke him, according to information the Mankato Department of Public Safety has released about the incident.
Layton was eventually put into an ambulance and taken, “for reasons that remain as of yet unclear,” to the Blue Earth County Jail, said Public Safety Director Todd Miller in an email last month. That email also confirmed Layton was “tased twice in an effort to gain control of him” after he didn’t respond to officers’ commands to stop resisting.
Layton’s heart stopped beating during the ambulance trip to the jail, Miller said. His pulse was restored during CPR and he was brought to the hospital. Layton remained in a coma until he was pronounced dead Jan. 5.
If it’s accurate that there was little alcohol and no drugs in Layton’s system, a head injury would explain why he was acting the way he did, Hanson said. As of Monday, BCA investigators had not released any additional information to the family, so they know about as much now as they did the day after the incident, he said.
Lindmark and Layton’s other friends have assumed from the beginning that it was the injuries from the fight that led to the confrontation with police, she said.
“When he walked into the entryway of Hy-Vee, he face planted,” Lindmark said. “They knew he just got beat up. If someone is unconscious and bleeding, why would you wake him up in a rash manner?”
And, if someone is having a medical problem, it doesn’t make sense to bring that person to jail, she said.