Suspect in trooper's death charged

Posted at 11:07 AM, Dec 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-18 14:20:26-05

The retired Army colonel accused of hitting and killing a Colorado State Trooper while under the influence was formally charged with several felonies on Friday.

Eric Henderson waived his right to hear the charges in court, but 18th Judicial District District Attorney George Brauchler told Denver7 that Henderson is facing three felony counts -- vehicular homicide while under the influence, hit and run with a death involved and tampering with evidence. He was also charged with two counts of DUI.

Brauchler told Denver7 none of the charges require mandatory prison time, meaning if Henderson is convicted, he could be sentenced to as little as probation only or up to 25.5 years in prison.

Henderson is out of jail on a $500,000 cash bond.

-- Trooper tried to wave down drunk driver --

Colorado State Patrol trooper Jaime Jursevics was hit and killed by a flatbed truck Nov. 15 as she stood on the side of southbound Interstate 25 near mile marker 176 in Monument, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Denver7.

Jursevics had parked her patrol car behind another trooper to "provide safety" while her colleague completed a crash investigation.

A witness, another driver in the area, said Trooper Jursevics was shining a flashlight toward the ground in the far left lane and it appeared that she was trying to direct the truck to pull over when she was hit, the affidavit stated. The witness pulled over and called 911 and the truck kept traveling south.

Denver7 reporter Jaclyn Allen spoke to the witness, who did not wish to be identified and who said the truck was "weaving all over the road" and that the driver was "clearly intoxicated."

-- Driver arrested --

A Palmer Lake police officer spotted the suspect's vehicle, the flatbed truck with front-end damage, traveling southbound and turned on his flashing lights, signaling the driver to stop. It took nearly 1 mile for the truck driver to pull over, the officer reported.

The officer asked the driver, Henderson, what happened to the front of his truck, referring to the damage.

"Nothing," replied Henderson, according to the affidavit. The officer reported that Henderson appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. His eyes were glassy and watering, his speech was slurred and his movements were slow. A deputy sheriff later reported that the suspect smelled of alcohol.

The officer told Henderson he was arresting him for DUI and hit and run. Henderson declined to perform voluntary roadside sobriety maneuvers, the affidavit said. The officer drove the suspect to Castle Rock Adventist Hospital to have his blood drawn for a toxicology test.

A blood sample was drawn from Henderson under "exigent circumstances," an exception to the constitutional requirement for a warrant for searches and seizures when officers have cause to believe evidence might be lost or destroyed.

At the sheriff's office, Henderson declined to speak with investigators, invoking his constitutional right to have an attorney. When investigators told him the charges he was facing, Henderson "looked very shocked" and asked them to repeat the charges three times, the affidavit said.

As Henderson sat in a recorded interview room, he appeared to be crying and he said out loud, "I killed a cop," the affidavit stated.  

Craig Whitehill, the passenger in the truck, said Henderson had driven him to the Broncos game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Whitehill told investigators that they had beers while tailgating in the parking lot, during the game and after the game. Whitehill estimated that Henderson had a total of about 6 to 7 beers.

As Henderson drove them home, Whitehill said he dozed off in the truck and only woke up when police pulled the truck over. Whitehill initially said he didn't "see, hear or feel anyone get hit with the vehicle."

But it appeared to jog Whitehill's memory when an investigator confronted him about a witness who reported seeing a man outside the truck, looking at its damage.

Whitehill said he was awaked by a "big thump," and then Henderson pulled over on the side of the road and made an abrupt U-turn. Whitehill told the investigator he couldn't say whether Henderson got out of the truck to inspect it, but Whitehill said that he didn't exit the truck.  

Henderson has a long and distinguished history of service, records show. 

The retired Army colonel was chief of the Operations Division for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command  in Colorado Springs. He retired in 2013 with 27 years of military service, military records show.

He received the Legion of Merit during his retirement ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base on June 7, 2013.

"Henderson is the type of person that people want to follow," said retired Army Brig. Gen. Kurt S. Story at Henderson's retirement ceremony.  "A leader has a responsibility to the group, and Eric never loses sight of that. A leader has a responsibility to himself, and Eric doesn't ever lose sight of that. A leader has a responsibility to the community -- in this case the larger Army enterprise -- our nation. Eric never lost sight of that. And lastly a leader has an obligation to ethics and morality -- to our code, and Eric never lost sight of that. Eric is a great American. I'm proud of him, and proud to have served with him."

Since his retirement, he has worked as a military contractor for Colorado Professional Resources. According to its website, he is a program manager and touts that he was "one of the Army’s first twelve officers selected for the Space Operations Officer career field. He is both a pioneer and a subject matter expert in the military applications of Space and Missile Defense for the US Army, the Joint Community, and our nation’s allies. He is an integrator and operator of numerous space and missile defense operations systems."


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