Chris Henry Dead at 26

Troubled football player Chris Henry has died after a bizarre accident.

chris-henry-dead-espnCincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry has died, one day after falling out of the back of a pickup truck in what authorities described as a domestic dispute with his fiancee. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Henry died at 6:36 a.m. Thursday. Henry was 26.”It is with great sadness to learn Chris has passed away,” Henry’s agent, Andy Simms, said in a statement. “For those who knew Chris, he was nothing like his public perception. A loving and caring individual, he was thankful for what he had in life, and proud of what he had overcome.”

Henry was rushed to the hospital Wednesday after being found on a residential road “apparently suffering life-threatening injuries,” according to police. Police said a dispute began at a home about a half-mile away, and Henry jumped into the bed of the pickup truck as his fiancee was driving away from the residence.

Police said at some point when she was driving, Henry “came out of the back of the vehicle.” They wouldn’t identify the woman, and no charges were immediately filed.

Police spokeswoman Rosalyn Harrington said homicide detectives have been assigned to the case but had no further information. Police have not released the 911 tapes, and Harrington wouldn’t say if the woman was present at the scene when police arrived. Authorities have not announced the cause of death. Mecklenburg County medical examiner investigator Carol Cormier said they were expecting to receive the body later Thursday.

Henry is engaged to Loleini Tonga, and the couple has been raising three children. Tonga’s MySpace page identifies herself as “Mrs. C. Henry” and has a picture of her next to a person who appears to be Henry. She also has a post from Tuesday talking about buying wedding rings. A neighbor said Wednesday that the Tonga family owns the home where police say the incident began. Charlotte is home to his fiancee’s parents.

“He was good at what he did as a player, he was a teammate to our players and a friend to almost all of us in the building,” Bengals president Mike Brown said at a news conference Thursday at the team’s headquarters. “We knew him in a way that [was not consistent] with his public persona. We liked him. He had worked through troubles in his life … to a point where he was going to have the future we all wanted for him and that he wanted for himself.

“At the time of his tragedy he was running to daylight.”

Sadly, not fast enough.

Henry showed flashes of greatness on the football field but his career was constantly overshadowed by off-the-field foolishness.   Going back to his college days, he had trouble with guns, drugs, alcohol, women, girls not old enough to be called women, and the police.  Perhaps he had cleaned up his act — he hadn’t been arrested in more than a year! — but the circumstances of his death call that into question.

Truly a shame.  But not a great surprise.

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, Policing, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JVB says:

    Sad beyond words. I hope they get her for manslaughter.

  2. Dave says:

    You’re going to regret the dismissive attitude of this post if it turns out Henry’s death was accidental. I fail to see how falling out of the back of a pick-up truck driven by your fiancee is somehow related to drugs, guns, etc.

  3. James Joyner says:

    There’s nothing dismissive about the post, just a recognition that Henry’s life was a mess. Falling out of the back of a pickup truck is almost surely an accident. Being in there whilst in a “domestic dispute” with the unmarried mother of your three children, however, is dangerous behavior.

  4. Dave says:

    You are dismissing the idea that a man whose life was once a mess could one day turn things around.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Nope. Just questioning whether he actually had done so.

    Michael Irvin, for example, had quite a few issues during his days with the Cowboys, including a drug arrest. He has, by all accounts, truly straightened up his life. He was fortunate enough to live long enough to do so.

  6. Brian Knapp says:

    You’re going to regret the dismissive attitude of this post if it turns out Henry’s death was accidental.

    It very well may be purely accidental. I am skeptical though, like James. I sat in on a very, very, very similar trial where a young female jumped on the running boards of an escalade to confront her fiancee for having another women in the passenger seat.

    He tried to push her off, but couldn’t for a lack of leverage. so he accelerated and then stopped suddenly to use the forces of the vehicle to knock her off.

    Well, she fell and went head-first into the ground. She didn’t move. After a minute or so, the man drove away.

    Did he intend to kill her? No. Was he wrong to use the force of the car to knock her off. Probably. The doors were locked and windows up (after trying to push her off through them) and he was in no danger. He had a cell phone and could have called the police (he had a previous record) but decided not to.

    Was he negligent in driving away after she didn’t move. Most definitely. Not felony material, but definitely of the voluntary/involuntary manslaughter lot.

    I don’t know all of the circumstances of this particular case, but it certainly sounds like there is more to the story than just “falling out of the back of a pick-up truck driven by your fiancee”.

  7. DK says:

    I love all the previous comments!

    Eyewitness reports that Henry threatened to jump from the truck in order to kill himself, the witness is a neighbor – retired DMV employee.

    Any of you care to explain how that implicates Tonga?