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Conservation Enforcement Officer Hendron Receives Award in Active Shooter Intervention
By David Rainer
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Joel Hendron, a 14-year veteran with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, was enjoying a day off from his Conservation Enforcement Officer duties in Geneva County earlier this spring when a chance visit to his work truck changed everything.
Little did he know that Michael McLendon, 28, had gone berserk and was in the middle of Alabama's worst mass shooting rampage in history.
Conservation Enforcement Officer Joel Hendron, right, receives a certificate honoring his conspicuous valor during the Geneva incident by Hobbie Sealy, Assistant Commission of Conservation.
Hendron also received recognition from the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association's Chris Jawoworski, left, and Rusty Morrow.
"I just happened to go out to my truck," Hendron said. "We had range the next day and I'm one of the firearms instructors. I heard the county call for help. (McLendon) had just shot at a trooper on (Highway) 52. So I jumped in my truck and headed that way. I came across him on 52 going into Geneva. I fell in behind him with the trooper and a couple of officers."
As McLendon drove into Geneva, Geneva officers Lt. Ricky Morgan and Chief Frank Lindsey executed a PIT maneuver to try to make the suspect's vehicle spin out. The maneuver did spin the car, but McLendon came out firing. He poured numerous rounds into the two Geneva Police vehicles, jumped back into his car and sped off. Lindsey suffered shrapnel wounds. Lindsey was lucky. Six people, several of them McLendon's relatives, had been gunned down on their front porch, a fact Hendron wasn't aware of until after the ordeal had ended.
Still several cars back in the chase, Hendron followed McLendon to Reliable Metals in Geneva, a place the killer had worked until 2003.
"He made a sudden turn in there," Hendron said. "He went in the middle gate. I had to go around everybody and went to the north gate. I could see him driving through the parking lot headed for the north end. The chief deputy was close behind me. He went to the back of building. There's one door on the back of the building and he pulled right up to the door. I didn't have time to get into a tactical position. There were some cars parked to the side of the building, so I got behind them. Then the chief deputy pulled into the parking lot to my left. The guy just started shooting the chief deputy's (Tony Helms) truck up with that AR15. He put 20 rounds in Tony's truck. Then he switched to an AK-47. That's when I opened up."
However, it quickly became obvious that Hendron's return of fire was not coming from a handgun. He, too, had an AR15, the semi-automatic civilian version of the Army's M16.