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Ala. firefighter admits to using illegal narcotics while on duty

Moulton Fire Chief Ryan Jolly said he was shocked after fiirefighter Christopher Henley was arrested at the fire station

By Michael Wetzel
The Decatur Daily

MOULTON, Ala. — Moulton Fire Chief Ryan Jolly said he was in disbelief, shock and had “a little bit of anger” when he was informed a week ago by the Sheriff’s Office that one of his firefighters was suspected of drug crimes.

About 12 hours after that phone call to Jolly, the Lawrence County Drug Task Force arrested Christopher Allen Henley, 27, 613 Lauderdale County 383, Killen, at the Moulton Fire Station on Tuesday morning.

Henley was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, one count of attempt to commit a controlled substance crime, all felonies, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor, according to district court records. He was taken to Lawrence County Jail, and his bail was set at $5,500.

Court records show Henley was released on bail Wednesday.

Henley has been a firefighter with the Moulton Fire Department for about a year, Jolly said.

“I’m angry,” Jolly said. “I’m going into a burning building with him. ... There’s never a moment here he appeared to be under the influence.”

Jolly said minutes after Henley’s arrest, the firefighter resigned and told him he never brought the drugs into the station.

“We’re a family down here,” Jolly said. “Chris is a member of the family. We trust each other with our lives every day. But right now, Chris needs to make sure he takes care of Chris and gets the help he needs. He’s still in our thoughts and prayers.”

Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell said Henley was caught with “a full ounce” of heroin and Suboxone in his car behind the fire station on Court Street in Moulton.

“We had to move fast on this case,” Mitchell said. “It was a short investigation given the work he does. If he’s using drugs and doing the work he does, it’s very dangerous. If he makes a bad decision (on drugs), he can get other firefighters killed. ... He could have gotten other people killed.”

Mitchell said that while investigating heroin being trafficked through the county, his agents learned Henley had purchased the drug from a Shoals-area dealer. His office notified the Moulton Police Department and Moulton Fire and Rescue to assist in the investigation. Mitchell said Henley admitted using illegal narcotics while on duty.

Mitchell said the use of heroin has been on the rise in recent years because it is cheaper to purchase the drug than it is to make meth.

Mitchell said he has been in law enforcement more than 45 years and said “it happens, but it is rare” to see a public servant involved with drugs.

“We definitely dodged a bullet,” Jolly added. “You would hope he was never under the influence while on shift.”

“Drugs have no boundaries,” he said. “They affect all walks of life. It could be your next-door neighbor, your doctor. You hope they get help.”

Henley completed the Firefighter Recruit School in Decatur and mainly did maintenance of trucks and the station grounds when not out on calls, Jolly said. He was making $12.72 an hour, Jolly said.

Until the firefighter position is filled after advertising and interviewing, Jolly said his work schedule will increase from 50 hours “to at least 100 hours a week.”

But Jolly can still only shake his head when thinking about one of his guys allegedly being involved with illegal drugs. He has been Moulton fire chief the past 10 years.

“It’s so frustrating,” he said. “It was hidden so well. We had no clue.”

Copyright 2017 The Decatur Daily