Skip to Content

Mother of man who died in police custody files lawsuit, seeking trial by jury

<i>WLOS via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Fletcher police said there is an investigation into the death of Christopher Hensley
WLOS via CNN Newsource
Fletcher police said there is an investigation into the death of Christopher Hensley

By Dean Hensley

Click here for updates on this story

    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — A federal lawsuit filed June 10, 2024, by the mother of the late Christopher Hensley claims Henderson County deputies and Fletcher Police officers weren’t properly trained in the use of restraint, and as a result, Hensley died due to excessive force at the time of his arrest on June 15, 2022.

Christopher Hensley died in June 2022 while in the custody of Fletcher Police Department in what was investigated as an excessive use of force incident. However, on Aug. 30, 2023, Henderson County District Attorney Andrew Murray announced in a letter to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation that he had determined the officers who restrained Hensley during his arrest were “not criminally liable” for his death.

The attorneys of Hensley’s mother, Catherine Hensley, filed the federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in Asheville. Catherine Hensley’s attorneys, Kristen Beightol and Catharine Edwards of the firm Edwards Beightol in Raleigh, filed the suit on her behalf. It is seeking punitive damages and a trial by jury.

Catherine Hensley, who lives in Miami, Florida, is suing the Town of Fletcher, Henderson County and the following law enforcement personnel:

Fletcher Police Officer Michael Teets Fletcher Police Officer Michael Elizondo Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Seth Summey Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Zachary Ritter Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Martin III Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Marcus Garren Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Warren

Edwards told News 13 on June 12 that they have not determined the exact amount of punitive damages but feel “they are appropriate in this case.”

Fletcher Police Chief Dan Terry told News 13 on June 12 that his office has yet to be served the lawsuit but will comply once served.

“It certainly appears it is on the way. Lawsuits such as this frequently accompany these unfortunate incidents,” Terry said. “Once officially received, we will appropriately follow and adhere to the judicial process. We, being the police department, will not be making any additional statements related to the case.”

The lawsuit says Hensley, 35, a father of two, was “tased, kicked, punched and ultimately killed on June 15, 2022, by defendants Teets, Elizondo, Summey, Ritter, Martin, Garren and Warren when he was suffocated for at least four minutes while in police custody.”

According to past WLOS reporting, officers responded to the Seasons at Cane Creek apartment homes in Fletcher just before 8:30 p.m. June 15, 2022, after a 911 caller identified as Hensley’s wife told dispatchers that her husband wouldn’t leave her alone and claimed Hensley was “on something.” When officers arrived, a struggle ensued, some of which was captured on video.

Fletcher police told News 13 in 2023 that officers handcuffed Hensley, who became unresponsive. Video taken by witnesses shows officers performing CPR on him. Hensley was transported to a local hospital, where he died.

After the State Bureau of Investigation finished its review of the case, it was sent to R. Andrew Murray, the district attorney for Prosecutorial District 42, which includes Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties. Murray’s news release on Aug. 30, 2023, said no North Carolina laws were violated by law enforcement in the death of Hensley, although an autopsy in February 2023 ruled the cause of death as a homicide. The autopsy report said, “because physical restraint contributed to the death, the manner of death is best classified as homicide.”

Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin issued the following statement to News 13 on June 12 regarding the lawsuit:

“In today’s litigious society, it’s to be expected whenever unfortunate circumstances occur. The District Attorney found no criminal liability on the part of our officers, and we stand behind our officers’ actions. Because of pending litigation, we will have no further comment.”

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content