Interview with Dawn Prendes

Dawn and Henry Prendes
By Brad Dupray

On February 1, 2006, Sgt. Henry Prendes of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department responded to a domestic violence call. More than 100 shots were fired in an ensuing shootout and Prendes was ultimately gunned down at point-blank range. His funeral was a major event that shook the city of Las Vegas to its core, with tens of thousands of people hearing his Christian testimony and of his passion for them to respond to the gospel. Since that time Prendes’s widow, Dawn, has carried on his legacy, spreading the message of Christ by any means possible. Their story has been highlighted in Jud Wilhite’s book Stripped and through the Web site www.UncensoredGrace.com.

How did you meet Henry?

A friend of mine worked with him at Las Vegas Metro PD and she was talking about going out for my birthday. Henry was walking by and said, “I want to meet her.” He called me, and we talked for a little while and decided to meet. It was like we were meant to be together. He asked me to marry him 10 months later on his birthday, which was New Year’s Eve.

Were you a Christian at the time?

Henry brought me to Christ. I was seeking all my life and as soon as I heard he attended church, I said, “Let’s go.” My faith started to grow when I gave to God the guilt I carried throughout my life. It was an amazing journey. I owe so much to Henry that I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I wouldn’t give up the loss that I feel for not having known him at all.

Have you questioned God?

I believe that as soon as Henry took his last breath God put his arms around me and hasn’t let go. He is my strength through every day. I never broke down. I never questioned why. Almost immediately, God revealed to me his purpose for taking Henry. God has been good to me in that way.

Has it helped to tell the story of Henry’s courage?

I told the story for the first time three days after Henry died. I was speaking at Central (Christian Church in Henderson, Nevada) and said that Henry, two weeks before he was taken, said a prayer that he wanted to be a voice to many people. There were thousands of people he wanted to reach. But he didn’t know how. I felt this was an answer to Henry’s prayer. We were able to spread the word to so many people in a short time.

How do you counter the tremendous sense of loss?

It’s hard not having Henry here. Even though I’m alone, I’ve never felt lonely. Prior to Henry, I needed to be in a relationship to feel that I had purpose. Now God fulfills all of my desires. At first I thought, Why can’t God fulfill all of our desires here on earth like he will in Heaven? I feel that he really does now.

How would Henry want to be remembered?

As a Christian man. A God-fearing man.

Are there certain Scripture passages you have drawn on to get through this?

Actually there are a couple. First Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing,” is one of my favorites. I’m in prayer constantly. I have open communication with God. And Philippians 4—be anxious about nothing, pray for everything, and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I tell people that God is my strength. He doesn’t give me strength. He is my strength. I have to go on without the person who meant everything to me on this earth. Without God’s strength there would be no way I could get up every day.

How do you react when someone refers to Henry’s death as “senseless”?

I would say Henry’s death is a blessing. I explain that it was because of Henry’s death so many people’s lives have changed. It’s the eternal perspective. You have to look beyond life on this earth. Henry would have given his life for the things that have happened since his death. Some people don’t understand that perspective.

It sounds like Henry’s death was a beginning rather than an ending. What began?

A revival in Las Vegas. I’ve had people tell me that the day of Henry’s service was the day God visited Las Vegas. We were able to glorify him through that experience. I’ve seen many people come to Christ. I’ve seen relationships repaired. Families coming together. I’ve seen our church family grow enormously. The effect is because of his testimony. There’s a revival in Las Vegas, and I feel a lot of that is because of the celebration of his life. The whole city was involved in his funeral service.

Did you expect that Henry’s funeral would have such an impact?

No. I had no idea how God would use that day to glorify himself. I didn’t know it would be on every television station from beginning to end and that they would close the Strip and have a procession. They put his face and his testimony on every marquee on the Strip. His message has reached around the world. I have a book about American police enforcement by a French author, and in the book there is a two-page memorial to Henry. I met an Argentine who said this was big news in Argentina when it happened.

How was the gospel presented through the funeral service?

I knew we were going to do an altar call and insisted that Jud (Wilhite, Central’s senior pastor) bring people to Christ. He led up to it and said he wouldn’t want to run into Henry in Heaven and have Henry say, “Wilhite, you let me down.” Henry’s motto was “always be closing.” There were people who were responding to Christ, calling their friends and saying you need to take me to church. That gives me a lot of peace—because of the changes that have been made in people’s lives.

Has there been an ongoing impact on the Las Vegas Police Department?

I believe so. I know of many officers who have started to attend church. They realize there is something bigger than them out there. There are a lot of Christians in law enforcement already, but the ones that don’t have Christ have really struggled. I’ve been a support to them, letting them know that they can’t carry this guilt with them. There was nothing they could have done to change what happened that day. Better to take Henry than some other officers who weren’t ready to go.

Officer Jason Hansen was referenced in the book Stripped. What has happened with him?

He idolized Henry and he had just started working with Henry. He came to Bible study and accepted Christ the next night. When you accept Christ you are persecuted by Satan. Jason seems to be handling the situation a lot better than the other officers. And I think that’s God helping him through that and his faith. It was too late for him to be there with Henry but it wasn’t too late for him to have a life change.

Where do you go from here?

I know widows are created every day. I have never felt sorry for myself. Through this I will become a stronger person and will be able to help people to see that through God you can do anything. I expect every day could be my last and I live my life like that. I learned that from Henry. The way he lived was a model for me. I just want to continue to grow in my walk. Instead of getting mad or running from God, my faith has only gotten stronger since Henry died. Henry was put in my life for a reason, to be able to carry on what he has done and to pass on that faith and trust to people. Any chance I have to talk about my faith gives me more peace.

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Henry Prendes’s dream was to create a camp for kids to start down the path toward a relationship with Christ. For more information on how this dream is being fulfilled, visit www.HenrysPlace.org.

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