By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — As a volunteer firefighter and security officer at the Laurel County Detention Center, Laurel resident Rodney Gay is well acquainted with jumping up at all hours of the day or night and running out the door to respond to emergencies.
But Gay had his own emergency early Tuesday morning and he credits his training for his quick reaction.
Gay said he was asleep at 5 a.m. Tuesday when his fiancé woke him by saying there was “a stranger in our house.”
“We were all asleep but my fiancé heard a sound,” Gay said. “It sounded like one of the girls was up, so she opened the bedroom door and this man was standing by our door.”
Gay said he aroused somewhat when he heard his fiancé say, “Who are you? Why are you in my house?”
“But I was still partly asleep but when she turned around to tell me someone was in our house. That’s when my training kicked in,” Gay related. “I jumped up and got dressed. I’m a firefighter — that’s what we do — jump up, get dressed, grab our keys, our pagers, and find out where we need to be.”
According to Gay, after his fiancé opened the bedroom door, the man started toward her but once the man realized someone else was in the room, he ran away.
Running through the house, Gay said he looked for his pistol that he usually keeps in his home, secured and out of reach of the two children in the home.
“The night before I was really tired, so I just left it in my truck,” he said. “My next instinct was to chase the guy. As I was on the front porch of my house, I saw him trying to get into an apartment next door.
“Emotions did not even hit me,” he continued. “I went straight into work mode — apprehend, secure, ensure safety, and call for back up.”
Gay did exactly that. He apprehended the man who had entered his home, ordered him to put his hands up, patted him down to check for any weapons and detained him until sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene.
Detaining the intruder — identified as 53-year-old Mark A. Hensley of Airport Road in Middlesboro — was not an easy task, as Gay said the man put up a struggle. Hensley continued that struggle even when deputies arrived, requiring officers to physically restrain him during the arrest process.
Hensley was taken into custody and charged with second-degree burglary, first-degree criminal trespassing, menacing, second-degree disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and alcohol intoxication in a public place.
Gay said he didn’t know Hensley and was unclear on why and how the Middlesboro man came to his Fariston home.
“He wouldn’t answer any questions, then he told different stories,” Gay said. “I guess that’s part of the ongoing investigation, what he was doing here. I don’t know him and he’s never been in our jail before now. He said he was going to his mother’s house near the airport, but we checked and he has no family here. Another story was that he hitchhiked here.”
Gay said on the night of the incident, his door was unlocked and Hensley “walked right in.” But the situation has changed Gay’s outlook on securing his home against unwanted visitors.
“I’m glad she (fiancé) woke up. She literally heard his shoes squeaking on the hardwood floor. If she hadn’t woke up, I don’t know what would have happened,” he added.
Like most other persons who experience such incidents, Gay said he feels victimized.
“Someone we didn’t know was in our house, but everyone is safe,” he said. “It went as perfect as any situation could go. No one was hurt, nothing was taken. I guess God had a reason that I left my pistol in the truck that night, because if it had been inside where I usually keep it, I don’t know what would have happened. I’m just glad the good Lord made it happen as it did.”