SALT LAKE CITY — In the months leading up to the fatal shooting of one Unified police officer, and a subsequent shootout that wounded another officer and left the gunman dead, Cory Lee Henderson had been in and out of prison twice and was facing new firearms charges.
Henderson, 31, had run from a powerful car crash at 2160 E. 4500 South in Holladay on Sunday when, just a few blocks away, he met up with police and fired the single deadly shot that killed Unified police officer Doug Barney, law enforcement officials said.
Henderson ran again, cutting back to 4500 South and meeting moments later with another group of officers. Immediately, according to police, Henderson opened fire, sending off multiple rounds and striking Unified police officer Jon Richey once, with other injuries sustained from bullet fragments.
Richey was recovering well Monday after undergoing surgery, according to the police department.
In the returning hail of gunfire, Henderson was shot and killed.
At the time of his death, Henderson was barred by his criminal history from possessing a firearm and was wanted on a warrant issued less than a month earlier after he walked away from a drug treatment center.
State and federal court records dating back 10 years paint a picture of repeated incarceration between three federal firearms charges, followed by failure to comply with terms of his release or complete treatment.
It's a pattern his mother, Peggy Holladay, saw her son fall into repeatedly.
"They just get caught in this system, and there's no getting out if it," she said Monday. "He never (had) a chance."
Holladay said she is heartbroken for the families of Barney and Richey, and that she has shed as many tears for the officers as she has her son. While Holladay fears the world's memory of Henderson will be forever scarred by Sunday's violent episode, she will remember him as a "gentle soul" and kindhearted boy who never really grew up.
"I just don't want him to be put down in history as a bad, horrible person, as a cop killer," Holladay said. She went on to explain, "He was just a scared kid in a big boy's body; that's how I see him. He never had a chance to grow up the right way."
Record of the Salt Lake man's brushes with the law date back to 2005, mostly small drug-related offenses that were later dismissed. In 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014 he was convicted of possession of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia, according to state court records.
Included in that criminal cycle was a fascination with guns, Holladay said, despite her pleas over the years.
"He loved guns. That was the thing he liked," she said. "It was like he was fascinated with them, but I don't think he really went out and shot them."
In 2005, Henderson was indicted in U.S. district court for possession of a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle with its serial number removed. That case was ongoing in March 2010 — after Henderson had been released from prison to a treatment center in December 2008, violated parole in 2009 and was ordered back to prison for four months — when Henderson was released and indicted again for possessing a firearm, a .22-caliber pistol, as a restricted person.
After eventually serving 14 months in prison on the combined charges from February 2014 to April 2015, Henderson was paroled April 28, 2015. A little more than a month later, on June 4, 2015, a warrant was issued for his arrest when he again failed to report to parole officials or complete treatment.
Henderson was arrested and returned to prison Oct. 3, 2015, to serve a 60-day sentence.
While he was behind bars, a third indictment dating back to the day of his arrest was filed Nov. 24, this time charging Henderson with possessing two handguns — a 9 mm Ruger and a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson — and methamphetamine. A third count charged Henderson with having the firearms in connection with drug trafficking.
At the completion of his sentence, Henderson was sent on Dec. 8 to the Fortitude Treatment Center in Salt Lake City for supervised release, according to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Adams.
Holladay believes that over time, life became easier for her son behind bars than out on his own. He was a well-behaved and respectful inmate who avoided fights and got along well with correctional officers, she said.
Jaiden Snyder, Henderson's younger brother, said Monday that each time his brother got out of prison, his honest efforts to change his life would slip with time, falling prey to frustration or addiction. Last fall, to celebrate Henderson's birthday and his release from prison, the family went fishing for a day.
That afternoon on the lake, Snyder believed things would be different.
"He was so happy, just him on the water. He had the biggest smile. He was so happy because he had all his friends and family there," Snyder said. "I felt that he wanted to change, that he wanted better things in his life. He had so much potential. He wanted so much better for himself."
But when Henderson went looking for work, "nobody wanted to hire him because he was a felon," and Henderson feared he would end up back in prison, Snyder said.
Fortitude Treatment Center allows parolees to leave for the day to attend school, search for work or visit with family. However, Henderson never returned to the facility after checking out on Dec. 18, saying he was going to spend the day looking for work, Adams said. Three days later, a warrant was issued for his arrest that was still standing when Sunday's violent events unfolded.
Greg Johnson, spokesman for the Utah Board of Pardons, said Monday that Henderson's release from prison was done in accordance with state law after he completed the 60-day sentence. The length of that sentence was dictated under changes to Utah law in the past year that focus on treatment where available over continual incarceration, Johnson noted, rather than being set by the board of pardons.24 comments on this story
Snyder emphasized his family's belief Monday that Henderson didn't set out Sunday intending to hurt anyone, but rather fell into a panic after the car accident and ended up making choices that would prove deadly for himself as well as Barney.
"I just want people to know he wasn't this big scary gangster," he said. "He had a sensitive side. He had emotions, you know? He cared about people and people cared about him. He had so many friends and family who cared so much about him, and they're all so devastated because he's not here with us today."