Merced police mourn loss of detective who waged long battle with brain cancer

Joe Henderson, Merced Police Department
Joe Henderson, Merced Police Department

Merced Police Chief Chris Goodwin used words like loyal, dedicated, thorough and well-respected when describing detective Joe Henderson.

The detective died Thursday morning after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 41 years old.

“He was just a cerebral thinker,” Goodwin said. “He could always look at a case and pick it a part. He had a great work ethic. If I gave him something, he would stay on it until he got it done. Sometimes he’d do it without taking a break.”

Henderson is survived by his wife Neri and a young son.

“He was well-respected, well-liked,” Goodwin said. “He’s the type of guy that would take his shirt off and give it to you. He would go above and beyond.

“During all that he was going through, he would still come back to work when he was sick. He’d come to court and testify because he knew how important the cases were. He knew the impact the cases had on the community.”

Goodwin has known Henderson since Henderson joined the force in June 2005. Henderson was one of the final police officers Goodwin trained before Goodwin became a detective.

Henderson worked in many roles with the Merced Police Department. He joined the SWAT team in 2006. He moved over to the Gang Violence Suppression Unit in 2007 and remained with that unit until he became a detective in 2012.

According to Goodwin, Henderson also helped implement a self-defense program for the community

Henderson’s last role with the police department was as a high-tech detective, solving crimes involving cell phones, computers and financial crimes.

Henderson was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009, according to a story done by ABC30. He underwent a surgery that removed most of the tumor. However, the cancer returned two years ago.

Known for being meticulous with his reports and conscientious with his cases, Henderson was also respected within the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.

“He was extremely professional, extremely thorough,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll. “He always looked at all sides, he looked at everything. As they say, he would leave no stone unturned.

“He was always willing to help. You could call him anytime. He cared. He cared about the community. He cared about the victim. He cared about his fellow officers. My heart goes out to his family. He was a really good human being.”

When Goodwin was leading the Gang Violence Suppression Unit, Henderson was his second in command.

“I had complete trust in him in my absence,” Goodwin said.

To work on the SWAT and Gang Violence Suppression units takes a special kind of person, Goodwin said, as the work is demanding.

“When you’re part of the gang unit, you don’t have a consistent schedule,” Goodwin said. “You may get off at 2 a.m. and I’ll call you back at 7 in the morning because we’ve got something going on. It takes dedication to the department. SWAT is the same thing. You can’t leave town, you can’t go out partying. It takes discipline because you may get a call and the SWAT team is out for multiple hours, laying in a field.”

Carroll said even while Henderson battled cancer, he still showed up in court.

“He came to testify in a case for me a couple months ago,” Carroll said. “He was sick, but he still came into court. He put on a suit. He came in and testified. It was incredibly courageous. He was just a good guy.”