Sunday, January 29, 2023

Willits Woman Accuses Former Mendocino County Cop of Sexual Coercion and Violence While On Duty 

A photograph of Derek Hendry obtained via public records request from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office

41-year-old Lorna Allen, who called Willits her home for 15 years, has gone public with shocking allegations–accusing a police officer of sexual misconduct. Between 2015 and 2020, Derek Hendry, a former member of multiple Mendocino County law enforcement agencies, allegedly used physical violence, threats of incarceration, and his powers as a police officer to coerce her into multiple sexual encounters, including once in a police vehicle. 

Allen is an admitted ex-addict with a criminal record. She knows that for many her past diminishes her credibility. For that reason, Allen and other women with similar backgrounds were Hendry’s preferred targets, she told us. Hendry knew accusations of misconduct made by addicts would fall on deaf ears. 

“This man has ruined my life,” Allen said. For five years, Allen lived in a pervasive fear imagining Hendry could arrive in his patrol vehicle at any minute threatening violence or jail unless she performed oral sex or intercourse. 

Derek Hendry served in the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office from approximately 2010-2018. Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall said Hendry “has not been an employee of the Sheriff’s Office for several years.” While Hendry was employed with MCSO, “I was not aware of any allegations of this nature.”

After he was terminated by MCSO, he worked up the ranks to lieutenant for the Willits Police Department. In April 2022, Hendry was fired by WPD for reasons unknown. By August, he was at the center of a criminal investigation.

Trent James, a former deputy with MCSO and officer with WPD, has used his YouTube channel “Confessions of an Ex-Cop” to address alleged corruption in those agencies. He has multiple videos focused on Hendry’s predatory behaviors. Allen saw one of those videos and reached out to James who persuaded her to report Hendry so he could be held accountable and maybe inspire others to come forward.

In August 2022, Allen brought forward her experiences to the Willits Police Department directly.  She shared them with Sergeant Stephen Gray, an officer Allen said she admired and called a “good cop”.

In the same month Allen told her story to WPD, we received information that Willits Police Chief Lizarraga had requested the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to conduct the criminal investigation to avoid any conflict of interest issues. LCSO’s Major Crimes unit served a search warrant on Hendry’s Ukiah home on August 5, 2022.

Chief Lizarraga told us in a recent conversation that LCSO’s findings warranted being considered for criminal charges and then forwarded to the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office where District Attorney David Eyster and his legal staff will determine whether formal charges will be filed against Hendry. 

We reached out to the DA’s office for comment and have yet to hear back.

It remains unknown if the criminal investigation centers around Allen’s accusations or includes others. When Allen was being interviewed by LCSO, she told investigators of other women who had fallen victim to Hendry.

Allen is sober now and memories of Derek Hendry’s violence haunt her. She described suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and says she lives in a chronic state of fear. Since speaking openly about her experience to the media, she says she fears Hendry will find her and kill her.

When asked why she did not report his behavior at the time, Allen said Hendry had left her in a fog of fear. She was scared her mother living in Willits could be in danger, that she would end up in jail or hurt, and feared being ignored because of her addiction and lifestyle.

Allen’s admitted addiction and lifestyle at the time of Hendry’s abuses have made it difficult for her to map out a timeline and specific dates are estimates at best. Almost every single occurrence followed a predictable quid pro quo: Allen could avoid violence or jail if she gave into his sexual advances. In every encounter with Hendry, he would be in police uniform.

Allen remembered Hendry threatening to plant an ounce of heroin on her and book her on drug charges if she did not comply. She recalled engaging in sex acts in the back of Hendry’s patrol vehicle while he wore his uniform. Hendry would routinely tell Allen, “Bitch, you’re mine. You’re done when I say you’re done.”

Attempting to provide Hendry an opportunity to comment on the investigation and Allen’s accusations, we called a phone number associated with him. A woman answered. We asked to speak with Derek Hendry. She asked who was calling and after disclosing who we were and that we were seeking comment, the woman said, “No thank you” and quickly hung up.

Since Allen came forward with her experiences, she told us she receives threatening phone calls from anonymous phone numbers daily. She said an unknown caller recently told her, “Shut your mouth or we’ll shut it for you.” When she tried to call these numbers back, an automated voice told her it was a non-working number. 

Allen is worried knowing the District Attorney is now weighing whether to prosecute Hendry. She joined protestors outside the Mendocino County Courthouse in the days before a “sweetheart” plea deal was handed down to Kevin Murray, a disgraced Ukiah Police Sergeant accused of sexual assault of multiple women. After Murray ended up with a year of probation, Allen says she is afraid Hendry will also get off easy.

Allen told us that going public with her experience was a way to show she was “no longer a victim. I am a survivor.” Her anxiety is a constant companion and she fears that her past will lead the world to perceive her accusations as fabrications. “Just because I did drugs and went to jail, doesn’t mean I’m a liar,” she said.

Allen received information yesterday afternoon that reminded her of why she needed to tell her story. Since NBC’s Bay Area affiliate broke her story, the station had received multiple calls from others victimized by Hendry. Hearing this news, Allen simply said, “That’s why it was important to tell my story.”

We must note that Derek Hendry has not been publicly charged or tried for the accusations levied by Allen. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence,  Hendry should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I 100% believe her! I moved to willits at age 28 (17yrs ago) & the name, Derek Hendry, came up quite a bit when I made friends & engaged with people in conversation. It was common knowledge that he was a shady cop. He would regularly assault, pick the type, & make false arrests & rob & steal from people in his community. A man, paid by our tax dollars, to serve & protect us was the source of terror for many. So let’s see what mendocino county does here. The recent track record of being transparent & protecting its community from its own protectors & the lack of accountability has been embarrassing & appalling!

    • Yes we have trouble, right here in River City. The same lack of attention by our DA (and others) paid to these bad actors is also displayed by our Attorney General and Governor. Very disillusioning that such things are allowed to go on. Frustrating and troubling, as well, and rightly so. I think some of our elected officials will find in the future it has a damaging effect on their careers.

  2. Matt,

    Who is Miller?

    Quote from paragraph 16:
    “Attempting to provide Hendry an opportunity to comment on the investigation and Miller’s accusations, “…

    • Dirty tweaker? Hmmm it seams to me that you are very ignorant. People who are recovering substance abusers are no longer in that mold. They are actively seeking help and are abstaining from substances. They take the steps to change everything about themselves so as not to be a piece of shit anymore. They pay taxes too. So anyone who can go through this kind of trauma on top of anything and everything else is a miracle in my eyes. So keep on talking down on things that you haven’t experienced. Keep your ignorance going because we all know that ignorance is bliss right?

      • I applaud LCSO for investigating this crooked cop, but I hope their investigation is thorough and not a sham one Like Mendocino County’s DA has done and will surely continue to do to protect violent cops.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a journalist for the everyman. Journalism has become a craft practiced largely by the urban elite. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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