The family of a former Ceres man shot to death by Colorado police officers on Sept. 4, 2018 is suing the city of Westminster.
Westminster Police officers Louis Engleberg and Chris Hempleman claim that Timmy Dewayne Henley, a 27-year-old graduate of the 2009 class of Central Valley High School, held a knife over his head and charged at them before opening fire.
A lawsuit brought before the U.S. District Court in Colorado, names the city of Westminster and the two officers. Engleberg is a 29-year veteran of the Westminster Police Department and Hempleman a 21-year veteran. The suit claims police used excessive force on a “man who was unarmed, non-threatening, and scared in the midst of an emotional disturbance” when they shot and killed him outside an apartment complex from a distance of 30 feet away. The suit also asserts that a multi-jurisdictional investigation – which ruled the shooting was justified – “adopted and bolstered the false account provided by the defendant officers, despite clearly contradicting evidence.”
Westminster is also one of few cities in the Denver metro area that hasn’t equipped officers with body-worn cameras.
The attorneys charge that “the city’s polices, practices, and lack of oversight has resulted in many circumstances where unnecessary force has been used and/or Westminster officers have been allowed to misrepresent the truth of an encounter in order to illusorily justify their force without consequence.” They claim this practice has “further emboldened the city’s officers to use force prematurely, unnecessarily, and in excess of what would ordinarily be required by reasonable police officers.”
Nichole Henley said police shot her brother 11 times and made up a story that Tim was chasing them with a knife, disputing police claims that officers initially thought he had a knife.
The suit, filed by attorneys Raymond K. Bryant of the Civil Rights Litigation Group and Luke W. McConnell of Mulligan Breit McConnell, references officers’ claims that Henley was “armed and charging them with a knife held above his head at the time of the shooting, but the physical evidence demonstrates that the officers’ account is impossible and incredible. The only knife on scene was behind a closed apartment door for the entire interaction between Mr. Henley and the defendant officers.”
Earlier in the day Officer Engleberg was called out to deal with Henley who was hallucinating as he stood in the back of a pickup and claiming dogs were after him. 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 as he appeared calm and was able to speak coherently.
At 1 p.m. the Westminster Police dispatchers 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.
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. He 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 was hallucinating,” said 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 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.
“I think he would be alive today if a different police officer had been out there on the call,” said Henley.