Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Hendrix
By Bill Moss, Published: September 10, 2020
A 35-year-old Henderson County sheriff’s deputy died at 12:57 p.m. Thursday, about nine hours after a car break-in suspect opened fire on him and other deputies on Bethea Drive in the Mountain Home community.
The shooter, who was suspected of breaking into a vehicle and exchanging gunfire with the vehicle’s owner across the road, shot the deputy when he and other officers were trying to arrest him.
Sheriff Lowell Griffin speaks to the media. Two other deputies returned fire, killing the suspect, who was identified as Robert Ray Doss Jr., in his mid-40s.
Doss “initially appeared to comply with lawful orders to show the deputies his hands, ” Sheriff Lowell Griffin said in a news conference Thursday afternoon. “But in one rapid movement he retrieved the gun, firing one round, striking the Henderson County sheriff’s deputy in the face and critically wounding him.”
Griffin identified the injured deputy as Ryan Hendrix, an eight-year veteran of the sheriff's office and Marine Corps veteran with a 6-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl. He was engaged to be married next month.
“He is an exemplary officer who is also a member of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, serves as a field training officer and assists in many other capacities, ” Griffin said, before Hendrix's death was confirmed. “I can tell you I’m struggling as I stand here in front of you, ” he said when asked how the department was reacting to the severe injuries that one of its own had suffered. “We are all family, this sheriff’s office. This is a family member. We’re all hurting right now.”
Family members were meeting with neurosurgeons to determine the next steps in Hendrix's treatment, he added.
"Early this morning while the world slept, Ryan responded to assist a family needing help when they became innocent victims of a violent encounter. We all know the tragic outcome, but Ryan refuses to let the story end there, " sheriff's Maj. Frank Stout said in a statement released at 6:04 p.m. announcing Hendrick's death. "Even in passing Ryan continues to exemplify a servant’s heart. You see, Ryan was also an organ donor. He will continue to help strangers for a lifetime, even after making the ultimate sacrifice. Ryan’s family wants everyone to know that 'Ryan was doing the job he was born to do and he died doing the job he loved.'"
Robert Ray Doss Jr.
Griffin described Doss as a career criminal with an arrest record for drugs, multiple larcenies and felony thefts in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia. He was currently wanted by South Carolina probation and parole authorities and was considered a flight risk and an escape risk.
According to Griffin, the chain of events started at 2:49 a.m. with a 911 call when a homeowner noticed a car that appeared to be broken down but was later determined to have been involved in a crash.
“The homeowner heard a loud noise and saw the suspect breaking into his car, ” the sheriff said. When the resident shouted at the suspect to stop, the suspect approached the house with a crowbar and shattered a window of the bedroom the homeowner was standing in. The homeowner saw the suspect reaching into the console of his car and, knowing he had a weapon stashed there, got another of his own firearms out. The two exchanged shots. The homeowner was not hurt and it’s “still unclear whether the suspect was hit at all in that exchange, ” the sheriff said.
At 2:54 deputies arrived and soon found the suspect in a pickup truck in a driveway belonging to a resident across the road.
After being treated on the scene by Mountain Home Fire & Rescue and county EMS, Hendrix was transported to Mission Hospital, where he remains in critical condition with life-threatening injuries.
The investigation led to a second “person of interest” and a search warrant being executed at a local hotel. That person was in custody and had been at least somewhat helpful to investigators, Griffin said.
The SBI has taken over the investigation, which is routine in an officer-involved shooting case. The SBI is investigating Doss’s shooting of Deputy Hendrix, deputies’ shooting of Doss, the person of interest and “the possibility of other criminal activity that may have occurred around this time in the area.”
The deputies were wearing bodycams — a new policy that Griffin had recently instituted department-wide — and those have been turned over to the SBI. The sheriff said as far as he knew, the officers' bodycams were activated at the time of the deadly exchange of gunfire.