Akron, OH – A man who was sentenced to almost six years for impersonating a police officer and running his own “scared straight”-style program has been released from prison after serving less than two years of his sentence.
The incidents which led to then-26-year-old Christopher Hendon’s arrest took place between March 29, 2017 and April 6, 2017 and could have earned the police impersonator as much as 122 years in prison, WJW reported.
Summit County prosecutors said that Hendon had at one time been a candidate for the Kent Police Department until he was ousted from the police academy for staging a shootout on Facebook.
Prosecutors said Hendon dressed up in a police tactical uniform – complete with badge, firearm, and Taser – and went into two Akron area school pretending he was a police officer.
Hendon claimed that the schools, who didn’t realize he wasn’t a real police officer, were asking him for help, WJW reported.
Prosecutors said that Hendon went to two different elementary schools and handcuffed at least 13 young children before he screamed obscenities at them and threw some of them up against lockers.
“Mr. Hendon was allowed to go into Leggett School, the principal and teachers allowed him. When they saw a young black kid get out of hand, they would call Mr. Hendon,” Edward Gilbert, an attorney representing one of the children’s mothers in a lawsuit seeking $20 million in damages from the school district, said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit.
“Mr. Hendon would literally take the kids from their classrooms, take them to a spare room, handcuff them, knock them up across the wall. As a result of it, these kids are having emotional problems especially when they found out he was a fake cop,” Gilbert told WJW.
Prosecutors said that Hendon repeated his police impersonation multiple times and wasn’t caught until April 6, 2017, when he tried to take three handcuffed kids into the Summit County Juvenile Center as part of his program and was recognized as a police impersonator by law enforcement at the facility.
Apparently, Hendon also didn’t know that the state of Ohio had outlawed “scared straight” programs.
He was arrested and ultimately pleaded guilty to more than two dozen charges including kidnapping and assaulting children, WJW reported.
But on Dec. 3, Hendon was back in court asking the judge who sentenced him to grant him early release after he had served less than a third of his sentence.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Christine Croce, who initially sentenced Hendon to only five years and 11 months in prison out of a possible 122 years, agreed to his release after less than two years and said she felt he had done what she expected when she sentenced him, according to WJW.
"The number of programs and employment readiness that you have completed and your actual risk assessment determined by the penitentiary all leads me to believe that what I told you at sentencing you took to heart, and I am happy to see that," Croce said.
Hendon’s attorney tried to frame his client’s prior crimes as good intentions run amuck, WJW reported.
"Before this case happened he was obviously on track to become a police officer and he was a guy who was trying to make a difference in his community," attorney Noah Munyer. "He took it a little too far and ended up going into the schools at the school's request and it became an issue and at the juvenile jail as well, but the intention was always positive."
The attorney claimed that most parents had appreciated Hendon’s efforts and represented his crime as having been some sort of mistake, WJW reported.
“I think that what we saw here and what we saw at sentencing was a guy who basically first time offender, went to prison for a year and nine months and aside from wearing the wrong t-shirt one day he conducted himself appropriately," Munyer said.
Hendon made an apology to the victims and their families in court before the judge ruled on his early release, WJW reported.
"I definitely want to apologize to the victims and the victims’ families,” the police impersonator said. “As a parent, I am a parent too so I understand the frustration, the hate, anger throughout all of this. I'd like to apologize to the Akron Schools and the board of education for bringing so much trouble. I didn't never intend to bring all that trouble onto them and the city of Akron as well.”
“These last few years has been pretty hectic,” Hendon continued. “While I was down I did learn a lot and as I said before I was so quick to do and not really think about what could really happen with a lot of things and I do feel like I learned my lesson.”
His attorney said they were pleased with Croce’s decision.
"I would say he has paid his debt to society and he is going to be a positive force in this community,” Munyer told WJW.