As far as the District Attorney of Adams and Broomfield counties is concerned, two Westminster, Colorado police officers were justified when they fatally gunned down a former Ceres man during a burglary call last fall. But the father of former Central Valley High School athlete Timmy Dewayne Henley insists his son was in the wrong place at the wrong time and “murdered” by overzealous officers.
District Attorney Dave Young released a 13-page report in February concluding that two officers were justified in the use of deadly force on Sept. 4, 2018 as they reported to the scene of multiple break-ins at an apartment complex in the Denver suburb. Police said Henley, a 27-year-old graduate of the 2009 class of CVHS, held a knife over his head and charged at them. When he ignored commands to drop the weapon, Westminster Police officers Louis Engleberg and Chris Hempleman opened fire on Henley.
Engleberg is a 28-year veteran of the Westminster Police Department and Hempleman a 20-year veteran.
Henley had moved to Westminster six weeks prior to his death for a work assignment with Amazon at its Thornton fulfillment center.
“There was no reason ever to be shot and killed by police,” claims his father, Joey Henley. “Questions remain as to why less lethal force wasn’t used that would’ve had a proven result of my son being alive today.”
Henley, who has the law firm of Kilmer, Lane and Newman looking into the shooting for a possible wrongful death suit, claims facts have been removed from the report of the investigation. The shooting was investigated by Brighton and Commerce City police departments, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office.
Citizen advocate Regan M. Benson in Colorado said she helped Timmy’s father obtain the discovery material from the district attorney’s office which she said contains mostly “very disturbing discrepancies in what law enforcement says happened versus the evidence.”
“I reviewed the disc myself and it was so troubling that I immediately guided the family to the most aggressive civil rights firm in the state,” Benson told the Courier.
According to the D.A.’s review of the shooting, police made contact with Henley earlier in the day when the owner of a pickup called police at 10:15 a.m. to report a stranger pacing in his truck bed and refusing to get out. Two sergeants and two officers showed up and coaxed Henley off the truck. Henley explained he had been taking cocaine for two days and told officers that he was having a “bad trip” from it. Henley was allowed to go home because he appeared calm and was able to speak coherently to officers and paramedics.
At 1 p.m. the Westminster Police dispatch center received a number of calls about a knife-wielding man breaking into multiple units at Environ Apartments at 3357 West 97th Avenue across the street from where Henley lived. The description they provided – that of a large man wearing a black shirt, shorts, socks and holding a knife – would match Henley when they saw him coming out of one of the units.
Just before police arrived, resident Ethan Tackett called 911 to report Henley busted through his front door armed with a large kitchen knife and claiming that someone was trying to kill him. Tackett locked himself in the bedroom and called police dispatchers. When Henley broke the door open to the bedroom, Tackett locked himself in the bathroom. While Tackett was still on the phone to dispatchers, they could hear the officers shooting Henley.
The two officers in the shooting told investigators that when they saw Henley coming out of Tackett’s unit he was holding a knife above his head and charged at them. Henley ignored commands to stop and was shot first by Officer Engleberg and fell to the ground. The report said that Henley stood up and advanced toward the officers and was shot again by both officers. Henley dropped and rolled in the parking lot where he died. Seconds before he died the officers claim Henley “continued to move his arm and attempted to reach underneath his body” and believed he “may have been attempting to reach for a weapon.”
The report also indicates that Engleberg shot Henley to halt his advance, fearing he was “going to stab us and kill us.” When Henley rose to his feet after the first shot, Engleberg said he fired additional rounds at Henley “still believing” he held a knife. After the second round of shots Engleberg “no longer observed the knife in Mr. Henley’s hand” and “was unsure what happened to the knife.”
A kitchen knife was later found by the crime scene investigators at the threshold of the door where Henley was first confronted by police.
Nine of the 13 rounds fired hit Henley. The autopsy revealed a gunshot wound to his right wrist was consistent with reports that Henley had his right arm raised over his head when he was first shot.
Officer Hempelmann claimed that after Henley was shot the first time he stumbled to the ground, ignored commands to stay on the ground and rose to his feet to charge “like a football player coming off the line.”
A resident of the complex, Andrew Lopez, said he came home and found his apartment broken into and heard a loud sigh inside his home. He retreated to outside and moments later saw Henley coming out with a “dazed look on his face, was sweating profusely and took deep breaths.” Lopez claimed he saw Henley enter a second apartment by forcing the door open with his shoulder.
Lopez said Henley walked to the vehicles in the parking lot, a discrepancy to police claims that Henley “rolled” into the lot. Lopez said Henley had definitely been holding a knife or a pipe in his hand when he exited his apartment but was unsure if he was armed when officers found him.
Gaspar Villalobos, an employee of the complex, said before the shooting he was working inside one of the units when Henley barged in “grunting and swinging a knife in each hand.” Villalobos grabbed a hand tool for protection and ran out the door. He went to a supervisor and eight minutes later heard the volley of shots fired by officers.
The autopsy conducted on Henley indicated that he had cocaine and benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine.
Joey Henley asserts that his son was tripped out on drugs, not breaking into apartments – a claim that does not bear out in the investigation.
“He was hallucinating,” said Joey Henley. “He had been on the phone like 20 minutes before then with his girlfriend and he told her that some people were following him and watching him and that he needed help, that they were going to kill him. He was totally tripped out all that day.”
Henley said police should have taken his son in for medical clearance or to the “drunk tank or something” that morning rather than release him. He described his son as a good man who was raised with a strong work ethic in a family owned lawn care business that kept him employed after high school until he began working for Amazon. Joey said he was unaware that his son did any drugs.
“I think he would be alive today if a different police officer had been out there on the call,” said Henley.