Photo by Tanner-West
Officer Shartez McHenry was known by her family and friends as someone who was bright and happy, a role model in the community who worked to positively influence the young girls in her life. According to those who knew her best, she touched many hearts and saved many lives.
“She loved her family so much. She was really big on family. She was an all-around good person. She cared about everyone she came into contact with,” her fiancé, Stephanie Creilson, said.
Serving her community, McHenry became an officer with the Owensboro Police Department in March 2015. Her interest in law enforcement brought her the opportunity to become a role model for other young girls to see a future in criminal justice.
“She said growing up she never saw anyone like her in the police force – she felt proud that girls like her could look up to her and say ‘She looks like me—I could do that, too.’ She really loved taking care of people in the community she grew up in,” Creilson said.
Her volunteer opportunities included speaking at local schools, visiting Girls Inc. on multiple occasions, and speaking to those going into law enforcement during their initial college courses.
A 2005 graduate of Owensboro High School, McHenry’s athletic career included playing basketball and running track. After graduating, McHenry began working at the Wendell Foster Center, where she continued to work until 2014 when she prepared to leave for Basic Police Training.
“Shartez really wanted people to be good, that’s it. She genuinely enjoyed helping people and wanted that goodness of people to come out. So many times in a police officer’s career, they see the bad side of people most of the time. If she were here or could talk for herself, she would encourage people to show that good side more often,” Creilson said.
Officer McHenry passed away on April 7, 2021 at the age of 34. A vigil was held in her honor at the police department as a chance for the community to honor her service and her life.
“We listened to some of her favorite songs, like “Tennessee Whiskey,” and talked amongst each other about her and about the good times. Three or four people got up and said words about Shartez, we let off balloons, and it was really special,” Creilson said.
Officer McHenry enjoyed serving in the community where she was raised, with a mission to give back through her role with the police department. Even though Owensboro is growing, McHenry appreciated the small town feel.
“She liked that even though Owensboro is getting bigger, it has a small community feel. She called it a little big city—everyone still knows everybody from around here, and that’s what she liked about it,” Creilson said.