SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A series of communication breakdowns led a parole board to release a man to a drug treatment center where he later escaped and killed a police officer working overtime to pay for cancer treatments, the Utah Department of Corrections said Friday following an internal review.
The department vowed to take steps to ensure the problem doesn't happen again — including requiring that probation and parole supervisors immediately log all details about arrests into an electronic system. Officials haven't decided if they will discipline those involved.
The internal investigation details missteps that led the state parole board to believe Cory Lee Henderson had been arrested in October only on a parole violation.
The board didn't know Henderson also had guns and drugs when he was arrested — information that could have kept him behind bars after his arrest.
Instead, he was sent to a drug treatment center in December. He escaped from the state-run center weeks before authorities say he killed Unified Police Officer Douglas Barney on Jan. 17.
It was Henderson's latest cycle through federal prisons and halfway houses as he faced multiple gun and drug-related charges over the past decade.
"It's a reminder of the importance of details in our work," said Rollin Cook, executive director of the Department of Corrections. "Every single day we face this possibility that if we don't give the right information, if we don't communicate effectively, that can have an impact on public safety."
The investigation by the department's law enforcement bureau found that the errors began when a probation and parole supervisor misidentified the police agency that arrested Henderson in October and failed to make clear the date of the arrest to Henderson's parole agent. That led the agent to pull a previous arrest in updating Henderson's file.
The next misstep occurred ahead of the Nov. 4 parole hearing for Henderson, when an agent told the parole board that he couldn't find information on the new charges. That's why board members didn't know about the weapons and drugs found during the October arrest.
The final error occurred due to a lengthy lag in notifying the parole board about Henderson being indicted on Nov. 25 by the federal government on weapons and gun charges stemming from the October arrest. That indictment wasn't electronically scanned into the Corrections database until more than three weeks later, the investigation found.
The parole board received an automatic notification that comes with that electronic filing on Dec. 18 — the same day Henderson checked out of the drug treatment center to look for work and never came back as he was supposed to, the investigation found.
A warrant was issued for Henderson's arrest three days later.
On Jan. 15, gang investigators tracked him to a Salt Lake City suburb, but missed capturing him, authorities said.
Two days later, police say Henderson ran a red light, crashed a car, then walked away. Officer Barney, 44, who was responding after the crash, was found shot in the head, his gun still in the holster.
The father of three teenagers was working an overtime shift he'd taken to help pay off debt from his bladder cancer treatments. He had been a police officer 18 years.
Henderson also shot one of Barney's partners through both legs before he was killed. Officer Jon Richey, 51, survived. Henderson died in a shootout with police.
A handful of corrections employees played a part in the series of errors, Cook said, but the department hasn't yet decided if they'll be disciplined.
"That's a very difficult situation," Cook said. "All of us that have worked in law enforcement understand that it can be that one detail that leads to somebody being hurt, or in this case being killed. It's been very devastating on all the staff involved already. We're trying to balance that... and make a decision on what discipline best fits"
This story has been corrected to show Henderson was sent to the drug treatment center in December, not November.