Less than twenty-four hours before Christopher Henderson shot his wife and then himself at a Spokane area medical center, he was evaluated by police officials after his co-workers complained that he was threatening suicide.
According to CBS News, this was not Henderson’s first attempt at threatening suicide. Spokesperson for the Spokane Police Department, Monique Cotton, told reporters that on May 16, Henderson’s wife called police to report that her husband had a firearm and was threatening to take his life, or be killed in a suicide-by-cop scenario. After the call, police tracked Henderson to a local park and were able to take him to a hospital for mental health evaluations.
Henderson was released three hours later, and police kept his gun.
On Tuesday, July 8, Henderson walked to the seventh floor cancer clinic at Deaconess Hospital where his 30-year-old wife worked, and opened fire. According to the Spokesman-Review, he shot his wife, Sheena, multiple times in the head and torso, and then turned the gun on himself.
Less than twenty-four hours prior to this horrific incident, police had determined that Henderson’s latest threat did not warrant a mental health check, and was not taken to hospital. Hours later, 37-year-old Henderson was returned his gun from a police storage facility where it had been held since being taken from him in May.
“This is a really horrible incident but it doesn’t appear anyone did anything out of policy,” said Monique Cotton.
Sheena’s family told CBS’s KREM that “the system failed” her.
“If someone has suicidal tendencies, any weapons they have taken shouldn’t be returned to them for one year,” said Sheena’s father Gary Kennison. “Had we known what he was up to just prior to this brutal act that took our daughter away, we could have protected her.”
According to police and the Department of Social and Health Services, Henderson was returned his gun because he had not been ordered to attend mental health treatment. In the state of Washington, police indicated that the procedure was followed to the letter.
Cotton told reporters that had the initial call to police been for a domestic violence incident, Sheena might have been notified when her husband retrieved his weapon, but because it was a mental health call, and Henderson threatened only himself, she was not informed.
“He [Henderson] told deputies about the incident in May and said that he no longer had his gun and that he was in a better place now. He said he had a counselor and would never do anything to jeopardize his relationship with his children,” said Craig Chamberlin, a spokesperson for the Spokane Sheriff’s Department told CBS News’ Crimesider.
Since the incident, other employees close to Henderson have come forward alleging that they heard him make specific threats against his wife, unfortunately this information was never presented to the authorities the day they called to report his suicidal threats.
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