An Orange Beach man is facing a murder charge in the August 22 death of a Mt. Vernon police officer.
Tyler Lee Henderson, 31, was driving his pick-up truck “at an excessive speed” along Baldwin County Road 36 when crossed over Alabama State Route 59 around 7 p.m. that night and slammed into a police cruiser.
The driver of the cruiser, 50-year-old Mt. Vernon police officer Ivan Lopez, died as the result of a “horrific collision” that authorities said resulted in an “explosion.”
Henderson was allegedly impaired and was arrested Thursday and taken to the Baldwin County Jail where he remains without bond. A bond hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Henderson was booked into the jail on charges of murder, assault first degree, driving on a suspended license and an ignition interlock device violation.
His name and his charges were revealed during a news conference at the Summerdale Police Department.
“We are grieving,” said Mt. Vernon Police Chief Duncan Harrington. “We are going to grieve and we also have 1,500 other citizens we have to take care of and so we’ll do our job and grieve together.”
Baldwin County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Heinz declined to say how fast Henderson was driving or how impaired he was.
Summerdale Police Chief Kevin Brock confirmed that “alcohol was a contributing factor” in the crash.
Heinz also confirmed that Henderson has a previous DUI arrest, but declined to provide additional details.
The assault charge, she said, stems from injuries to a passenger in Henderson’s truck. The passenger, whose identity is unknown, was taken to a nearby hospital and had been receiving care in its intensive care unit.
Heinz defended the timing of the investigation despite criticism in recent days by some TV media outlets suggesting it was taking too long to make an arrest.
“This is an ongoing investigation, and it will remain and ongoing investigation and what might seem to the public as an open and shut issue is not,” she said.
“It’s not like what you see on TV. It’s not CSI or NCIS. It takes time to develop the facts so that we can find the correct charges.”
Lopez’s funeral was on Saturday, and he has been described as “loving husband, great father” and a humanitarian. He had 20 years of police service.
Harrington said he was beloved in Mt. Vernon, a small Mobile County community that is about a 71-mile drive from Foley. Lopez, according to authorities, was on-duty at the time of the crash and was driving to his Foley at the end of his shift.
“He was a smiling face to the community whether he was at a funeral or taking someone to the grocery store who could not get there themselves or feeding stray animals or taking care of anything or anyone,” Harrington said, calling Lopez a “community-minded” officer who also would play dominos with elderly residents.
The Summerdale Fire Department reported a second crash at the scene that night when a speeding vehicle crashed as crews worked in the area. A driver went to the vehicle by helicopter, but authorities did not discuss any details on Thursday about that separate incident. No first responders were injured.