Man killed by police chief showed erratic behavior leading up to fatal confrontation

The sign at the door of the Trumann police chief. Photo by Stan Morris | NEA Report.

TRUMANN, Ark. – Johnny Kelley visited the Trumann police chief at his home earlier in the day before the shootout that took place later Friday morning which left Kelley dead, several sources close to the case have said.

Almost two hours before the fatal shooting, sources say Kelley came to Trumann Police Chief Chad Henson’s home to confront him about an unclear grievance. It’s unsure if Kelley’s thoughts can even be rationally described in words, but Kelley’s anger revolved around a conspiracy he believed he had uncovered involving Trumann police and underage girls, one source said. Nothing came of this meeting and Kelley was told to leave the police chief’s home.

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Trumann Chief of Police Chad Henson. Photo from TrumannPD.org

Two hours later, Henson was at work, in uniform and fortunately for him, wearing his bullet-proof vest. It was while near a traffic stop when Henson encountered Kelley, two sources close to the investigation have said. Kelley was apparently parked in his truck and sitting by the side of the road. Having seen Kelley displaying strange behavior earlier in the day, Henson pulled alongside him and made contact. Kelley wanted to show the police chief “something” and asked Henson to follow him to Kelley’s home.

When the two arrived, the Arkansas State Police press release said Henson approached the door to the residence and the situation turned chaotic. Kelley fired one round at Henson, hitting him in the chest, according to the initial statement taken from Henson. The bulletproof vest absorbed the round, allowing Henson to fire his duty weapon multiple times, killing Kelley.


Conspiracies

In the hours following Kelley’s death, vocal family members took to Facebook to lash out at police, the media, and others. As is often the case during the grieving period, those closest to a lost loved one tend to remember them fondly and forget their faults. While this is a natural process, WMC-TV in Memphis chose to allow several of the family members to vocalize unsubstantiated claims and erroneous details which did not match up with facts of the case.

For instance, the WMC story mentions Kelley discussing “dirt” he had found on the police chief. There has been no such evidence presented, found, or shown at any point.

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Johnny Kelley. Photo from Facebook.

The story mentions Kelley not owning a “phone,” indicating that he could not have called the police chief to his house. Nowhere has it been accurately reported that Kelley ever called 911 or the police chief. As we have learned, it was a face-to-face conversation which led to Henson going to Kelley’s house. The press release from state police also said Henson was “asked.”

A relative who lives nearby in a trailer indicated she heard a “shot.” However, she admits she was asleep when it happened (around 10 AM). All reports indicate several gunshots were fired in the exchange – not “one.”

This same relative along with another relative claimed Kelley never had a gun. Factually, Henson took a bullet to the chest, absorbed by his vest, and was airlifted to a Memphis hospital for treatment for the painful injury (a vest may stop the bullet but most of the force still transfers into the victim from the impact). A source at the scene said one of the relatives in the WMC report actually helped take the wounded chief’s vest off and assisted him until medical personnel arrived.

One other question, posed on NEA Report’s Facebook, asked why Henson would be at an address outside of the city’s boundaries on a map. The reason is Poinsett County Sheriff Kevin Molder grants all Trumann cops county jurisdiction.


Kelley’s Erratic Past

As one family member described Kelley, she posted a photo of him “before heartache and Trumann changed him,” in her words. She then asserted that he “had a mouth and wasn’t afraid to use it” but he would never try to shoot a police officer. She said police, news channels and the media are “not your friend.” But the first words of her post acquiesced Kelley’s mental state had declined in some form.

One source indicated the past seven years had been tumultuous for Kelley’s family, due to his declining mental state and his family had tried to get Kelley committed multiple times. They never succeeded.

Two nights before the fatal shootout, Kelley came to a public forum in Trumann. While the keynote speaker addressed the crowd, reports are Kelley walked up, stole two maps, and walked out. Several were apparently “freaked out” as one described to NEA Report.

Then, two hours before the fatal incident, Kelley came to the police chief’s home. Kelley was shouting and believed he had uncovered a conspiracy. He was told to leave, sources say.

The unusual confrontation may have gone without notice if not for what transpired two hours later.


Kelley’s body is at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory to determine the manner and cause of death.

The investigation being prepared by the state police will be submitted to the prosecuting attorney to determine if the use of deadly force by the chief was consistent with Arkansas law, the release from State Police said.

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