Police cleared in deadly struggle with NC man high on cocaine, meth

Investigators say struggle between officers and suspect lasted 14 minutes
NC suspect dies while in custody
NC suspect dies while in custody
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 11:04 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2023 at 1:02 PM EDT
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FLETCHER, N.C. (FOX Carolina) - After reviewing the results of a months-long investigation, a district attorney cleared police officers in Fletcher who were involved in detaining a suspect who died in custody.

On June 15, 2022, a woman called 911 around 8:30 p.m. to report that 35-year-old Christopher Robert Hensley was behaving erratically and would not let her leave their apartment with her two young children.

A summary of the facts released by District Attorney R. Andrew Murray says Henlsey was “obviously hyped up on some type of drug and acting irrationally” when police arrived on the scene.

Officers said while trying to separate Hensley and the victim, the suspect became increasingly hostile and his use of profanity directed at them “dramatically escalated.” They also reported that he appeared to be trying to move around vehicles in the parking lot to get back to the victim, who was packing to leave.

It took five officers and a good Samaritan working together to handcuff and hold Hensley who, according to the report, “exhibited extraordinary strength, endurance and determination, fueled by high levels of the sensory-stimulating drugs of methamphetamine and cocaine.”

He was able to grab an officer’s Taser at one point during the 14-minute struggle.

Investigators said officers gained control of Hensley around 9:06 p.m., but he mule-kicked an officer and then stopped moving. At 9:07 p.m., someone noticed Hensley didn’t appear to be awake. The report is unclear on whether an officer or a civilian noticed Hensley was unconscious.

They immediately checked his pulse, could not find one, and began chest compressions in addition to administering Narcan. Hensley was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

After an autopsy, the medical examiner determined Hensley suffered a heart attack in the setting of cocaine and meth toxicity, dilated cardiomyopathy and physical restraint. His death was officially classified as a homicide since restraint was a contributing factor.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was called in to investigate the case, compiling thousands of pages of documents, hundreds of photos, and “countless hours” of video recordings.

In the recordings, Hensley never said he was having trouble breathing, according to investigators.

“At any time during his interaction with law enforcement officers, he could have simply capitulated to being handcuffed and the incident would have been over,” Murray wrote in his decision. “As such, I do not find that any of the officers that were involved in restraining the decedent were criminally responsible for his death by heart attack.”