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Family of man shot by police say they're 'disappointed'

Friends and family of Mark Henderson say they want answers about what really happened in the early morning hours of Friday, Aug. 31.

The 19-year-old St. Paul man was shot and killed at the Red Roof Inn in Woodbury, where a group of teenagers were allegedly robbed at gunpoint, held hostage and raped by 25-year-old Demetrius Ballinger.

Court documents state Ballinger fired the first shot on Henderson as he tried to escape. He was then shot by police when he refused to obey commands. Henderson was unarmed.

"It's a mistake," was the first thing that went through the mind of his mother, Tawana Henderson, when she learned of her son's death. "It couldn't be true ... I was in total disbelief."

She said she still hasn't heard from the Woodbury police department about the details of the incident, why her son was shot when he was trying to get away to save his own life, or how she will pay for the funeral.

"I even started calling St. Paul police because I didn't know what else to do," she said. "They had no clue to what I was talking about."

Friends and family of Henderson held a memorial service Wednesday, Sept. 5. More than 50 people attended.

The vigil was held in a St. Paul home where Mark Henderson's godmother, Ethel Minor, lives.

"When you got somebody shooting behind you ... you're not thinking, you're just trying to get away," Minor said. "In a hostage situation, you just don't open fire on people. You don't do that."

Tawana Henderson said she heard of her son's death from one of the teenage boys who attended the party and not the police.

The last time she saw her son was around 11 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, when Ballinger picked him up to go to the party.

"When I saw him, just the look of him," she said of Ballinger. "I didn't like him. I said 'no he can't come in here.'

"I didn't have a good feeling about him at all."

Latifa Brown, a close friend of Henderson's, said Ballinger was not invited to the party but found a way to stay.

The family's accounts of what went on that night come from one of the boys who attended the party. They said Ballinger was upset when one of the girls refused to talk to him.

"From there everything went wrong," Brown said.

Mark Henderson was known for his big smile, energetic personality and joyful demeanor, friends and family said.

"He was such a pain in the butt. I wish he could be a pain now," Tawana Henderson said. "He was so helpful to me, so caring, so full of joy. I just miss my son."

Mark Henderson was due to become a father himself next month, she said.

She said she's frustrated with how the authorities are handling the case and is hoping to get some answers soon.

"I'm very, very hurt and disappointed with the police department," she said. "I had so much respect for the police.

"I know that their job is hard, but to shoot my son down like that and to just brush it off ... it doesn't sit well with me at all."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.