Chardon media event and “all those questions”

Submitted by Lee Batdorff on Sat, 03/03/2012 - 18:54.

The tragic shootings at Chardon High School on Monday Febuary 27th instantly became a media event. Sometimes media events have a way of showing up media as less than thorough.

Carl Henderson, former Geauga County sheriff, was said to have “retired from police work seven years ago,” in a March 1st New York Times article about the Chardon High School shootings. While Henderson provided details about the family of the alleged shooter, he did not exactly “retire” from being sheriff. Numerous media outlets quoted Henderson without giving important information about his background.
 
In February 1981, 21-years-ago, Henderson was convicted of theft in office, (said to have pocketed two checks totaling $1,800), and sentenced to prison. After exhausting all appeals, he went to prison in December 1982. After eight weeks, he was freed on shock probation in February 1983.
 
Former sheriff Henderson may have gotten a police consulting gig during the remaining 19 years before he retired. Maybe he was a private eye.
 
This omission in sheriff Henderson's history by the New York Times gives opportunity to provide another sheriff Henderson story.
 
During the years from 1974 to 1976 I was a reporter for the late daily newspaper, the Geauga Times Leader in Chardon. While I was covering other stories, over a period of several months four individuals volunteered details of alleged wrong-doing by sheriff Henderson. One of them was a former deputy. They wanted me to look into Henderson's behavior.
 
After I wrote down the forth person's account, I gathered my notes, and wrote a list of four questions. Then, at the newsroom, I took a deep breath, and called sheriff Henderson and asked him each question. And he declined to answer each one. When I ran out of questions I cordially thanked him for his time and hung up.
 
A couple minutes later, the phone rang on editor (the late) Jim Thompson's desk, next to mine. Jim answered it. After a brief conversation, he hung up, and told me, “Lee, stop pestering sheriff Henderson with all those questions.”
 
Chardon has a lighter side too. One of my beats at the GTL was the Chardon Local School District. The Chardon Board of Education met in the high school, down the hall from the cafeteria where the three fatal shootings occurred.
 
Boards of education meetings are known for their dullness. There was one memorable meeting of this board however. The board members came to the conclusion that if they are going to have a policy of no smoking by students at school, then board members can't smoke during board meetings at the school as well. I took a photo for the next day's paper of several board members, arms extended over a table top, putting out their cigarettes in a single ashtray.