Prosecuting attorney says Chief Henson justified in use of force

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

In a letter from Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington dated Aug. 25, Ellington states that Trumann Police Chief Chad Henson was justified in the use of deadly force against Johnny Kelley on Aug. 3.

In the letter, addressed to Col. Bill Bryant of the Arkansas State Police, Ellington reveals his findings regarding the incident based on the investigative file and discussions with State Police investigators.

According to the letter, the morning of the incident, Chief Henson had been getting ready for work when he found Kelley standing outside his apartment next to his department vehicle. Henson recognized Kelley from numerous contacts the police department and other offices had with Kelley in the previous months, where, according to the letter, "Kelley was known for being confrontational in these instances." Kelley asked Chief Henson if he was going to shake his hand. Startled by Kelley's presence, Henson told him him to leave, and Kelley left.

Later that morning, while Henson was travelling back toward his apartment, he heard radio traffic about an officer making a traffic stop. Because the stop was on his way, Chief Henson pulled over to put on his ballistic vest so he could assist if necessary, but the traffic stop had cleared by the time he got there. Chief Henson continued toward his apartment, and on the way, he recognized Kelley in a dark SUV in the middle of Cash Road near the intersection at North Ozark. According to the letter, Henson decided that was a good time to have a conversation with Kelley about showing up at Henson's apartment uninvited that morning.

Chief Henson pulled up next to Kelley's vehicle, and Kelley said he needed to talk with him. Kelley put his vehicle in reverse and backed down the road toward his camper trailer with Henson following. Both parked by the camper and got out of their vehicles. Then, Ellington wrote that, "Kelley began making outlandish allegations that some Trumann Police officers were identifying themselves as U.S. Marshalls who had been coming onto his property, criminally trespassing. He also alleged a Trumann officer had raped and impregnated a 14 year old child."

As he talked, Kelley began walking away. He walked toward the camper complaining of mosquitoes and said he was going to get some mosquito spray. Kelley went inside the camper, and "a black mesh screen fell over the doorway, impairing Chief Henson's vision inside the camper," the letter said. Henson stepped closer, about 18 inches from the door, when he saw a black gun coming through the screen. Henson didn't recall hearing anything but remembered being hit in the chest by a force that felt like a Mack truck. Henson instinctively drew his service weapon and returned fire. He then went into the camper to render first aid until help could arrive, but when he found there was no pulse, he knew Kelley had died immediately. Chief Henson then notified Trumann Police and requested medical assistance.

In the letter, Ellington said that Arkansas Code Section 5-2-601(b)(2) "allows the use of deadly force if the officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use--or imminent use--of deadly force. The investigation revealed that Chief Chad Henson was confronted with circumstances justifying the use of deadly force the day Johnny Kelley was shot. Specifically, Chief Henson feared for his life after having been shot. Chief Henson was certainly justified in using deadly force in returning fire before Kelley could get off a second shot which, in all likelihood, would have been fatal."

Ellington also noted that there are still ballistic and autopsy reports to be finished, as well as follow-up reports, and that as such, the investigation remains open.

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