Hendersonville – This Christmas is solemn for those grieving over recently lost loved ones, such as the local family of slain officer Ryan Hendrix.
Hendrix, 34, a Henderson County sheriff’s deputy for eight years, was fatally shot Sept. 10 by a career criminal while answering a break-in call near U.S. 25 North in Mountain Home.
The Marine vet served his hometown community after serving his country in Iraq. He was to marry his fiancé Emily a month later. He would have turned 35 on Dec. 9.
His two children are daughter Elloree, age 9 and, son Merritt, age 6, Ryan’s mother Heidi Scholz Hendrix noted. Ryan was a middle child among Don and Heidi Hendrix’s eight children — ages 20 to 40.
“We’re very proud of Ryan,” Heidi told The Tribune last week. “He’d face danger to protect others.” He was a SWAT member and a field training officer.
Ryan “has done an outstanding job in every aspect that he served in,” Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin stated. “We all hurt with” the Hendrix family, over Ryan’s “ultimate sacrifice.”
Heidi, an active civic volunteer, homeschooled their children through grade seven. “All our kids help others,” said. Heidi said Ryan was a helpful, reliable friend to many. “He visited classrooms and sick people in the hospital.”
Don said Ryan since childhood “would talk with anybody” since he was four. Ryan was an achiever, “ambitious,” Heidi said. He excelled in soccer. He was a relief pitcher as local 11-year-old baseball all-stars Don coached to a state title.
Don does auto detailing. He is an avid Revolutionary War re-enactor. Ryan shared that hobby.
A memorial ceremony was on Sept. 13 outside the Henderson County Law Enforcement Center (LEC), which commissioners voted to rename after Ryan Hendrix. Don said law enforcement and others “wrapped their arms around us, through this difficult time.” Hundreds attended. The funeral was on Sept. 18. Ryan was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Grieving During the Holidays
The holidays have been emotionally tough, Heidi said. She avoided the family gathering on Thanksgiving, “a very sad day for me.”
She said, “when it happened, at first we were in shock. Every day since then, when you wake up it’s (a rewind as in the film) Groundhog Day. It hits you again. ‘He’s gone. It’s really happened.’ It’s comforting to know where (heaven) he’s at. But we miss him a whole lot.”
His children “miss their dad” and his swimming, boating, fishing, and hiking with them.
Heidi and Don have 14 grandchildren. They are hosting their children’s families on Christmas Eve. “We’re keeping our tradition,” Heidi said. “We’ll miss Ryan that day. Even when Ryan worked on Christmas Eve, he came in uniform for part of our family gathering.”
Heidi, long pro-law enforcement, went from sympathy to empathy after Ryan’s tragedy. “When it hits us,” she said, “we’re connected with others’ losses.”
Locals have put on fundraisers for the Hendrix family. “We totally appreciate the community’s support,” Heidi said. She said an N.C. Police Benevolence Association (PBA) fund is dedicated to a trust fund for Ryan’s two children.
Ryan is the first posthumous recipient of the local Hometown Hero Award and was lauded as diligent and espousing “kindness.”
State Sen. Chuck Edwards tweeted a “hero has fallen today,” tragically showing “it can happen here — and sadly it has.”
Two Hendersonville police officers died in the line of duty. They were Sgt. W. Glenn Simpson in 1968, and officer Dennie Quay Enevold who was fatally shot in 1981.
What Happened on That Fateful Day
“Ryan responded to assist a family needing help when they became innocent victims of a violent encounter,” Sheriff Griffin said.
He explained the incident began at about 2:50 am Sept. 10. A homeowner on Bethea Drive near Piney Ridge Drive called 911 then, reporting his car was broken in by a suspect smashing a window with a crowbar. The suspect grabbed a gun from the vehicle’s console, the victim got a gun from his home, the two men then exchanged gunfire but missed each other, Griffin said.
Hendrix was among three deputies on the scene. They found suspect Robert Ray Doss, Jr. in a pickup across the street. Doss faked surrender. He initially “complied with lawful orders, to show deputies his hands,” Sheriff Griffin said. “But in one rapid movement, he retrieved a gun. Firing one round (striking Hendrix’s) face, and critically wounding him.”
Two other deputies returned fire, killing Doss.
Deputy Hendrix succumbed to his wounds at 12:57 pm in Mission Hospital in Asheville, the sheriff noted.
Doss, a multi-state felon in his mid-40s, was wanted in South Carolina. for violating parole, Griffin said. He said a second suspect was taken into custody.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Sept. 18 introduced the Protect and Serve Act. It makes it a federal crime to violently target or seriously injure a law enforcement officer. Tillis noted Hendrix’s death among 37 law enforcement officers killed in the U.S. this year — up more than 20 percent more than year-to-date in 2019.
As for such killings, the “Defund Police” movement, and protests that turn violent against officers, Heidi Hendrix insists that “the war on our police officers must end now!”
The link for donating to the PBA fund for Ryan Hendrix’s two children is https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/deputyryanhendrix/.