Teacher facing assault charge

A 43-year-old Cortez Middle School teacher was arrested Wednesday, Oct. 24 after he allegedly punched a Montezuma County Sheriff’s deputy while trying to gain access to a blocked road to his property during the Roatcap Fire.

John McHenry is charged with the felony charge of second-degree assault on a peace officer and the misdemeanor charges of obstructing government operations, resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer.

According to a MCSO report, Deputy Christopher Barry at 12:47 p.m. on Oct. 24 was closing down County Road 30 at Highway 184 due to an out-of-control wildfire that was headed north toward his location.

Barry said the reason for the closure was that the area was deemed to be dangerous and residents were being evacuated for their safety.

Barry said he was in full uniform and his marked police car had its emergency lights on with three large traffic cones placed at the front and rear of his cruiser when he was approached by McHenry, who was driving a sport utility vehicle.

He said McHenry ran toward him leading him to believe the man intended to run past the roadblock.

Barry said he held up his hand and said, “Sir, the road is closed, and nobody is allowed to go down this road.”

According to the MCSO report, McHenry said he lived on the road and had horses he had to get, and Barry repeated his statement about the road being closed.

The MCSO report stated that McHenry uttered an expletive and told the deputy to either move the cones and let him drive down the road or he was going to run past him. Barry told him he would have to place him under arrest if he went past the barricade.

McHenry allegedly tried to pass Barry by shoving the deputy’s left shoulder with his left hand and Barry turned to his left and grabbed the back of the man’s shirt.

As McHenry continued to struggle, Barry told him he was under arrest, and as the struggle continued, McHenry’s shirt begin to tear.

According to the MCSO report, McHenry abruptly turned to his left and punched the deputy with a closed fist on the left side of Barry’s face in the upper jaw/temple area.

As the struggle ensued the piece of shirt Barry was holding onto completely ripped off from the rest of the shirt, and McHenry broke free.

Barry broadcast on his police radio that there was an assault on a police officer, and he was pursuing him on foot. He said in his police report that McHenry was much faster than he was and he was unable to use his Taser deployment.

As McHenry continued to flee, an unmarked Sheriff’s office vehicle driven by Undersheriff Robin Cronk arrived, who then exited his vehicle and took the suspect into custody.

Barry, in the report, said he experienced pain in the temple and upper jaw area and subsequently went to the hospital for medical treatment.

McHenry is also the head coach of the Dolores High School girls basketball team. After a  closed-session meeting late Tuesday night, the Dolores School Board of Education voted to suspend McHenry for the season pending resolution of the criminal charges against him.

McHenry was held at the Montezuma County Jail on a $60,000 Property Bond but has since bonded out.