Utah reviewing why cop killer is out of prison
Federal prosecutors who filed the new gun and drug charges will also review their actions
By Lindsay Whitehurst
SALT LAKE CITY — Authorities in Utah said Thursday they are reviewing how an ex-convict with a history of gun charges was released to a drug treatment center that he walked away from weeks before he fatally shot a police officer.
State prison officials and federal prosecutors are examining the case, including the question of why the Utah parole board didn't know that federal prosecutors were about to file new drug and gun charges against Cory Lee Henderson, 31, when he was released from prison in November.
"It would have been a critical piece of information," said board spokesman Greg Johnson. The board could have kept Henderson behind bars, but officials thought he'd only been picked up for violating his parole after being released from prison in April. They gave him two months in prison and let him out to get treatment.
Typically, word of the new charges would have come from a parole officer or the Department of Corrections, Johnson said.
The Department of Corrections also oversees the state-run treatment center, and it is now conducting a standard review of every aspect of the case, said spokeswoman Brooke Adams.
Federal prosecutors who filed the new gun and drug charges will also review their actions, said John Huber, the U.S. attorney for Utah.
"We would all do things differently knowing what we now know," Huber said in a statement. Lawyers and judges make similar decisions like these every day and do their best to balance difference interests, he said.
Henderson had a history of cycling through federal prisons and halfway houses as he faced multiple gun and drug-related charges over the past decade.
He was released from the state prison on parole in April after serving a 14-month stint on a gun charge, but he violated his parole and a warrant was issued for his arrest, court records show.
Henderson wasn't arrested again until early October, when police say he was caught with methamphetamine and two handguns. He went back to prison on the parole violation, but the state parole board never heard about the new allegations. Federal charges weren't filed until late November, after his release.
He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Evelyn Furse the following month, and she decided to keep Henderson at the treatment center rather than behind bars. Prosecutors raised concerns that he had he had violated supervised release at least 10 times in the past, but ultimately didn't object to her decision, Huber said.
But days later, Henderson checked out of treatment to look for work and never came back. On Sunday, police say he ran a red light, crashed his car and walked away from the scene.
Officer Douglas Barney from Salt Lake County's Unified Police Department responded to the crash during an overtime shift he was working to pay off his cancer-treatment debt.
Police say Henderson shot Barney, 44, in the head before the officer got his gun out of the holster. Henderson shot and wounded a second officer before he was fatally shot by other officers.
The Fraternal Order of Police has called for a full examination of the case.
"This is going to require a systematic review," said spokesman Ian Adams. "It's impossible and unethical to try and hang the tragic result of a dead officer on any single person."
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press