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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Chad Smith is Lehi's police chief, but he feels more like a father to his officers.

LEHI — Ten hours a day, four days a week, they work together. They go camping, eat and play golf together. They put their lives on the line each day together.

Lehi's police department is like a family. And Art Henderson, who stood in the middle of a snowy street last week with his gun raised toward an oncoming squad car, at one time was considered a brother.

Coping with a crisis

A week ago today, an armed Henderson allegedly hunted down his ex-wife and her boyfriend before turning his gun toward Lehi officers coming down the road with their lights on and sirens blaring. A shootout ensued and Henderson was hit twice, stopping the rampage.

The crime scene has been cleaned up, and the investigations are under way, but the healing process for the Lehi officers has just begun.

"We're close," said Lehi Police Chief Chad Smith. "Blood is thicker than water. You can always weather any storm if you have your family with you."

For the 31-member department, the weathering started Monday night. Police officers and their wives, ambulance drivers, firefighters and department secretaries spent an hour in a debriefing meeting, trying to cope with the events.

The feelings were predictable: Second-guessing, sadness, frustration.

"There was a lot of anger," Smith said. "We felt like a good friend tried to kill us. There's a lot of baggage there."

Smith continues to work with his officers and their spouses to make sure they can talk about their feelings and feel his support.

The support is there every day, not just after a crisis. Smith talks to each officer every day. He asks about their children by name. He looks into their eyes, knows how they're feeling.

The big man with a gray mustache and a contagious smile sees himself as a father figure rather than a boss. He's been looking after his officers for 14 years — four years as chief and 10 years as assistant chief.

Smith, who has worked in every position in the department, tells his officers that family is first. The job comes later.

"I will take you out of that job before I will let you throw that marriage away," he tells officers who are spending too much time at work.

Officers' spouses have the chief's phone number and are invited to call him anytime. "That's what I'm about," Smith said. "Family."

Smith's door is always open, and there is candy on his bookshelf. Officers stop by to say hello, shoot the breeze and walk away with a Tootsie Pop.

"I want the very best for my guys," Smith said. "They're very important to me. They're my kids — my family. My family is first, but they're close."

And they know it. He tells his officers he loves them. Often.

"He's kind of like a father more than a chief," said officer Bill Loveridge. "You know he cares about you. It makes you a lot more confident to go out and do your job right."

Part of the family

Henderson worked as a Lehi patrol officer from July 1, 2000, until he was fired on July 23, 2004. His dismissal stemmed from a misdemeanor simple assault charge against him.

"He was a good officer at first," Smith said. "Gosh, he had so much going for him. He just went to hell in a handcart."

At the Lehi police station, a 2001 Lehi Police Department picture is missing. Henderson was in it. They took it down this week. The family tie is all but gone.

Detective Mark Birch went through the police academy with Henderson and described him as a "silent, tough" guy.

"Life had fallen apart on (Henderson)," he said. "It was a pretty desperate situation."

Smith said he had called Henderson into his office multiple times to discuss his family life and offer counsel. Twice, Smith sent him home on monthlong leaves to get his home life worked out. It never seemed to click, Smith said.

Henderson's wife, Natalie Barnes Henderson, was seeking a divorce and custody of their five children. On the day of last week's car chase and shooting, Henderson was awaiting the results of a review by the Utah Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy on the simple-assault charge. He risked losing his police certification.

Police say Henderson chased Natalie and her boyfriend, Craig Trimble, 35, through a Lehi neighborhood near Natalie's mother's house. Witnesses say Henderson rammed into their car with his truck, got out and shot Trimble in the stomach.

When Lehi officers responded, they found themselves facing a former officer and former SWAT team member — someone who had taught them defensive tactics.

"One of the scariest things you'll ever go to is a gunfight with a guy who knows your weaknesses and tactics," Birch said.

After Henderson fired multiple rounds, sending one bullet into a bystander's car and one through a police car's windshield, officers took him down with shots in his knee and foot.

"We shoot to kill . . . " Smith said. "We shoot for body mass. (But) it was such a long way, shells are going to drop."

Henderson, who was treated for his injuries at American Fork Hospital, has been in the Salt Lake County Metro Jail since being released from the hospital Friday.

A judge on Monday ordered that Henderson, arrested for investigation of attempted aggravated homicide, must stay in jail without bail. The judge said he was a danger to the community. He remains on suicide watch.

Looking back, moving on

Smith was at home when he received a call from a Lehi dispatcher at 9:30 Friday morning: There's been a shooting. Art's involved. Officers are there.

"I'm dying," he said of his feelings at that moment. "It was deja vu with Joe Adams."

Lehi, a quiet, 25,600-resident city settled in 1851 has lost only one officer to a shooting.

Here, Main Street is peppered with historic buildings, and most police shifts are made up of routine keep-the-peace calls and traffic stops. Situations that require gunfire are very rare.

The last fatal shooting involving an officer was in 2001, when Adams, 26, executed a routine traffic stop. Adams asked the man, Arturo Javier Scott Welch, to step out of the car so he could conduct sobriety tests.

Adams found a bag of cocaine and tried to handcuff Welch, who then pulled out a gun from his belt and fired it over his shoulder, fatally shooting Adams in the chest, right above his protective vest, Smith said.

Visitors to the Lehi police station lobby are met with a sketch of Adams, a city-issued proclamation and Adams' badges to honor the man who died in the line of duty. The police station was also renamed the Joseph D. Adams Public Safety Building.

Welch later pleaded guilty and was sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Lehi Police Cpl. Jeremy Elswood, who works with the police-dog division, was the first officer on the scene when Adams was shot. He called it the worst night of his life.

The two men had trained together and were good friends. Like another bad dream, Friday morning Elswood saw another person "shooting at my friends."

And just like when Adams was fatally wounded, the debriefing Monday for the Henderson incident allowed a much-needed emotional release, Elswood said.

"It helped me big time to be able to talk about it with people who were there," Elswood said. "I needed to talk about it so it's not bottled."

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After Adams' death, the department had three debriefings. Smith said they will have as many as they need to cope with Friday's shooting.

Everyone — officers, dispatchers, secretaries, wives and children — has been affected, Smith said. Along with anger and frustration, the incident has brought out a different side of people. "It seems to bring everybody closer," Smith said.

"We seem to hang around each other more," he said. "You call them one more time a day than you normally would. There's always a silver lining behind every crisis. We search for that silver lining."


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com