OLYMPIA – The family and friends of a Spokane woman killed by her estranged husband in a murder-suicide last summer watched Tuesday as the bill they hope will prevent similar tragedies was signed into law.
The Sheena Henderson Law will require police agencies in Washington to notify worried family members before releasing guns seized in cases of domestic violence or suicide prevention. It’s a common-sense measure that “will make communities safer and give families peace of mind,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.
Henderson’s husband, Christopher Henderson, had his guns seized by Spokane police after an unsuccessful suicide attempt last summer. He was later evaluated as a potential suicide threat in July but eventually was cleared and released by Spokane Valley officers. The next day, he went to the Spokane Police Department and retrieved his guns and then went to Deaconess Hospital, where Sheena worked, and fatally shot her before killing himself.
Gary Kennison, Sheena’s father, has said if the family knew Christopher had his guns back, she wouldn’t have gone to work that day. She would have accompanied Gary to the courthouse, where he was filing a restraining order against Christopher for her.
The notification bill had smooth sailing in the Legislature after the National Rifle Association added its support, Kennison said. It passed both chambers overwhelmingly.
But another proposal the family is supporting, which is named for both Sheena and Christopher, would allow law enforcement officers to alert mental health experts about a suspected suicide attempt, even if that person doesn’t meet the criteria for protective custody. It stalled in the Legislature and may be dead for the year. Sheena’s family and friends will be back to push for it next year, Kennison said.
“Sometimes you have to take baby steps,” he said. “We’re out to save lives.”
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