Remembrances

The Death of DJ Henry: Complete Coverage from WGBH News

By Phillip Martin   |   Tuesday, October 18, 2011
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The October 2010 shooting death of Danroy “DJ” Henry Jr., the Pace University football player from Easton, Massachusetts, has continued to stir controversy on a number of levels that go well beyond this single incident. 


As part of his ongoing coverage, WGBH News' Phillip Martin explored those issues in a special four-part series, DJ Henry and the Training of Police, that won a 2011 PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. You can read and hear all Martin's stories on the subject via the timeline on this page.

> > READ: The complete story lineup


Part 1: A Crowd, a Car and a Gun

The Henry family

Who was DJ Henry? And who was Aaron Hess, the former U.S. Marine who was on duty with the Pleasantville police force that night? Henry's best friend remembers October 17 and the events that brought the football player and policeman together — with fatal results. Read Part 1.

The Emily Rooney Show: A Family Still Searches for Answers, Justice


Hip-hop stars Kanye West and Jay-Z considered DJ Henry's case an example of another black man dying young of violent causes. They dedicated this song, from their 2011 album "Watch The Throne," to Henry.

Murder to Excellence (clean) - Jay Z & Kanye West by Imagem Creative


Part 2: DJ Henry, Eurie Stamps and Race

Henry's football helmet

A grand jury did not proceed with a case against Officer Aaron Hess. But some continued to question the role of race in Henry's death — especially after a retired MBTA worker named Eurie Stamps was shot by a Framingham police officer in January 2011. Read Part 2.

The Callie Crossley Show: DJ Henry, Race and Police


Part 3: DJ Henry and the Police Response

The Henry family

Some police experts say the force needs to train officers to de-escalate conflicts and increase sensitivity to racial stereotypes. The six-month training program for new Massachusetts police was created to prevent the kind of situations that may have led to the deaths of DJ Henry and Eurie Stamps. Read Part 3.

 


Coda: The Henry Case Today

After the end of the local criminal investigation, the Henry family asked the federal Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights review. We follow up on the tributes, the lawsuits and the lives that were forever changed. Read Coda.

Kyle Henry recorded a video message to supporters of the family. (KditaOtaku15/YouTube)

 


Complete Coverage

Family Honors DJ Henry On Anniversary Of Death

By WGBH News   |   Monday, October 17, 2011
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Oct. 17, 2011

Angella Henry

Angella Henry holds a T-shirt made in honor of her son, DJ. DJ was killed in October 2010 by a police officer in New York state. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

BOSTON — Friends and family of Danroy “DJ” Henry planned to hold a candlelight vigil Monday for the deceased Pace University football player. Henry was fatally shot by a police officer in Thornwood, N.Y. one year ago.

This afternoon, Henry’s family dedicated the DJ Henry Athletic Field in his honor in his hometown of Easton, Mass.

On Friday, friends of Henry who were with him on the night of the shooting filed several lawsuits against the Westchester County court and law enforcement systems.

Callie Crossley spoke about the case and racial profiling with Pastor William Dickerson; psychologist Philip Goff; and WGBH’s Phillip Martin, whose multi-part series this week examines DJ Henry and the training of police.

WGBH’s Phillip Martin and wire services contributed to this report.

Part 1: A Crowd, A Car And A Gun

By Phillip Martin   |   Monday, October 17, 2011
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Oct. 17, 2011

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Danroy “DJ” Henry, the Pace University student from Easton Massachusetts. Since the shooting, Henry’s death has continued to stir controversy on a number of levels that go well beyond this single incident. In a special series, DJ Henry and the Training of Police, WGBH's Phillip Martin explores the death of a college student and the system of training that may have contributed to it.
 


BOSTON — In the living room of his parent's home in Easton, Massachusetts, Brandon Cox holds a weathered photo of his high school friend, Danroy "DJ" Henry. They met during Brandon’s freshman year. DJ was a sophomore. Their families meshed and the boys gelled over hip hop, old-school R&B, movies and especially football.

“Everything we did we kinda had that bond between us that not everybody really could understand,” said Cox.   

After graduation, both headed to college. DJ settled on Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y. in Westchester County. Brandon studied closer to home at Stonehill College. Both played football and competed against each other in a much-anticipated homecoming game last October 16, 2010, said Cox.

“We ended up beating them pretty soundly. After the game we all came together and both our families went out to eat and it was just like being back home, just like high school again. All our families together, having a meal and just enjoying each other’s company,” Cox said. 

That night, Brandon Cox went back to DJ’s rental unit, played video games and then headed out on the town. They ended up at Finnegan’s, a popular bar and grill located in a strip mall, between a Chinese restaurant and a bank.

“They had a DJ in the back and they had cleared the floor to make like a dance floor. He was introducing me to people he knew from school and all of that. I didn’t see the incident that caused them to shut everything down, but they were shutting it down and telling people to leave so we said, ‘Let’s get out of here,’” Brandon said.

Pictures of DJ in the family house
Pictures of DJ Henry's childhood and young-adult life fill the family's living room in Easton, Mass. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

DJ and four friends had arrived together in a Nissan Altima. He and Brandon Cox idled outside the bar waiting for the three remaining friends to pile in. Police had been called to the bar by the owner to quell a disturbance that, by all accounts, had nothing to do with the five boys. A crowd had gathered outside and police moved in to break it up. What happened next is to many still a very disturbing mystery.

Here’s how Cox explained it.

“So we’re in the car, and DJ had kind of got out to look for the guys. And when he came back he only came back with one of them, Desmond, so we were still in the car waiting for the other guys and we hear a loud tap on the window and it kind of startled us. The tap came again and we looked up to see that it was a police officer,” Cox said. 

And the officer instructed the driver to move along, said Cox.

“So DJ put the car into drive and starts to drive away. And as we come around the corner an officer with his gun raised runs between two police cars that were on the side of us and runs in front of the vehicle with his gun raised and as DJ starts to slow down, he opens fire and then the car speeds back up because there are bullets coming through the front windshield. And I had felt something hit my arm and I wasn’t sure what it was and look out of the corner of my eye and I can see the police officer on the hood firing into the car from the hood of the car,” Cox said.

The officer who fired the shots was 33-year-old Aaron Hess, a former U.S. Marine who served seven years on the Pleasantville police force after an initial stint as a cop in Manhattan. Hess’s attorney, Mitchell Baker, said his client recalls the incident quite differently.

“Mr. Henry was driving his automobile. He was directed by Officer Hess to stop his automobile,” Baker said.

According to Baker, Hess had four choices. “If he went to the left he’d get hit. If he went to the right he’d get hit. If he went backwards, he’d get run over. So what his training taught him was to jump on the hood of the car. Mr. Henry was further directed to stop his car. He did not, and that’s when the shots were had,” Baker said.

Chaoes reigned in the aftermath of the shooting, as Pace University students and others rushed to help their friend DJ who, according to multiple witnesses, though severely wounded, had been pulled from the car and thrown to the ground by police. 

“When we left our son about 6:00 p.m. Saturday evening, we hugged him we kissed him, we took a picture of him,” recalls Angella Henry, DJ Henry’s mom.  “When we saw him 12 hours later, he had scratches and bruises on his face that don’t comport with a gunshot wound to the chest. So we know he was treated poorly.” 
 
Angella Henry and her husband Danroy Henry Sr. were notified of their son’s death by two Easton, Massachusetts police officers, who arrived at their door in the early morning hours. They rushed to Westchester County Medical Center where Brandon Cox’s mother Donna and stepfather Tommy Parks were waiting. Also at the hospital was Officer Aaron Hess, whose knee had been injured during the incident. Dozens of fellow officers were milling around his room, said Cox's father, Tommy Parks.

“He seemed to be in good spirits. He was lifted up off of what I believe was a wheel chair and he lifted up to talk to an officer. He just didn’t seem bothered the way that we were. We were in total shock,” Parks said.

Four months later, in February 2011, a grand jury did not indict Officer Hess. The Westchester District Attorney’s office released a statement that read the grand jury “found there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment.”


In the summer of 2011, hip-hop stars Kanye West and Jay-Z released the chart-topping album "Watch The Throne." The centerpiece of the album is the song "Murder To Excellence," dedicated to Henry.

Murder to Excellence (clean) - Jay Z & Kanye West by Imagem Creative


In April, Officer Hess received an award as Policeman of the Year from the Pleasantville Police Benevolent Association.

And, for much of the past 12 months, questions have been raised about the case and about other cases. The legal process, gathering evidence, the political relationships between the district attorney and the local police force, and the overall treatment of blacks by white officers.

It raises questions about police training and responses to perceived danger, and whether such perceptions of danger are colored by race. Aaron Hess is white. Danroy Henry black.

In our next report, we'll look at what might have prevented the DJ Henry tragedy and a subsequent case in Framingham with many similar issues. 

Sept. 11: A Day Of Reflection, A Decade Of Stories

By WGBH News   |   Sunday, September 11, 2011
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Philanthropist Myra Kraft, Wife of Patriots Owner, Dies

By WGBH Staff & Wires   |   Wednesday, July 20, 2011
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Jul. 20, 2011

In this Oct. 26, 2010 file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and his wife Myra Kraft speak with volunteers after the completion of a new playground at the Boys & Girls club in Waltham, Mass. Myra Kraft died Wednesday, July 20, 2011 after a battle with cancer. (AP)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass.  — Myra Kraft, the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a hard-working philanthropist dedicated to numerous causes, died Wednesday. She was 68.

The NFL team said in a statement that Kraft died Wednesday morning after a battle with cancer.

"We are all heartbroken," the statement said, adding that the philanthropic community has "suffered a great loss."

Myra Hiatt Kraft was an active and powerful force in her family's foundation and served on the boards of varied community and charitable organizations. She managed the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation and was president of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, which contributed millions of dollars to charities in the United States and Israel.

In 1995, she became the first woman to chair the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, a position she held until 2002. She served the past two years as chair of the board of directors of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

"She dove into everything that she was involved with," said Bob Lobel on WGBH's Emily Rooney Show.

Also on the show, Howard Jacobson, a cousin of Myra Kraft, said there had been an outpouring of support for Myra and her family. "(It's) heartfelt. People are not doing it in form, they're doing it because she touched so many people," Johnson said.

Jacobson reflected on Ms. Kraft's life's work. "There's a Hebrew Biblical tradition that says, 'It is our responsibility to help cure the world,'" Johnson said. "And that's the way she lived. It's remarkable."

"Myra led by example through her hands on commitment to bettering the communities we serve," Michael Durkin, president and CEO of that United Way chapter, said in a statement. "While Myra will be deeply missed, her legacy of kindness to all will remain a beacon of hope in trying times."

She also served as chairwoman of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and was on the board of directors of the American Repertory Theatre, Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, and Brandeis University, where she graduated in 1964.

"With her great heart and magnificent spirit, she lived her life in service to those who needed her help," said Barry Shrage, president of CJP. "Myra loved the land of Israel and the Israeli people and visited as often as she could."

Brandeis president Frederick M. Lawrence, chosen by a search committee on which she served, said, "She was always reaching out to students, faculty and other trustees and served as a model to all of us in so many ways. Myra was not just a philanthropist, she was a humanitarian in both a personal sense and a community sense."

Robert Kraft is chairman of the NFL's Broadcast Committee and a member of its Labor Committee. During his wife's illness, he has been deeply involved with talks to arrive at a new collective bargaining agreement and end the lockout of NFL players.

"On behalf of all NFL players, I want to offer my deepest sympathies to Bob and the Kraft family," NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith said. "I know how much he loves Myra. We mourn her loss and the entire player family is with heavy hearts today."

Heath Evans, a New Orleans Saints running back who played for the Patriots from 2006-2008, tweeted: "What made Myra Kraft special? Strong but Tender-hearted/Proud but Humble/Bold but Soft-Spoken/Extremely blessed but lived to be a Blessing."

She married Robert Kraft in June 1963 while she was a student at Brandeis. But she was not, at first, an enthusiastic supporter of her husband's attempts to buy the Patriots, who play just 20 miles from where he grew up in Brookline. He became owner in January 1994, paying $172 million, an NFL record at the time, for a team that was 19-61 the previous five seasons.

"She thought it was nuts," he said in an interview with The Associated Press last January. "She was afraid it would affect our charitable giving and I said, 'We will do more for the community if we run this franchise correctly."

Earlier that month, Robert and Myra Kraft announced a $20-million gift to help attract doctors and nurses to Massachusetts community health centers.

Myra Kraft was the daughter of Jacob Hiatt, who grew up in Lithuania and moved to the United States in 1935. He settled in Worcester, where she was born. Hiatt became president of the E.F. Dodge Paper Box Corp. in Leominster in 1938 and stayed on when it was bought by Whitney Box. The company is now known as the Rand-Whitney Group which Robert Kraft bought in 1972. He now serves as its chairman and chief executive officer.

The Krafts have four sons, Jonathan, Daniel, Joshua and David. Jonathan is president of the Patriots. Daniel is president and CEO of International Forest Products, founded in 1972 by his father. Joshua is president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

'We Need People Like Him Every Day'

By Jess Bidgood   |   Tuesday, March 1, 2011
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Mar. 1, 2011

BOSTON — The Harvard community — and people the world over — is mourning the death of Reverend Peter Gomes, the man who ran the university's Memorial Church for over forty years.

Gomes died Monday night because of complications from a stroke he had in December. He was 68.

The Reverend Peter Gomes died Monday at the age of 68, after a more-than 40-year ministry at Harvard University. 

Gomes' longtime friend, writer and columnist Mike Barnicle, met Gomes because the two would regularly spend early mornings at the same restaurant. "He was an education to sit with, next to, to listen to, a sheer education. Not just in terms of his moral values but his view on the world,” Barnicle told WGBH's Emily Rooney on Tuesday.

A black, openly gay minister, Gomes was a decided rarity. He came out about his sexuality in 1991. 

He was also politically conservative for most of his career, although he changed his political affiliation to Democrat to vote for Gov. Deval Patrick in 2006.

Barnicle said Gomes learned from his own experience being different, and set out to help others with theirs. 

"He was was an expert at honing in on the demonization of people," Barnicle said. "He could see people and institutions being demonized well before it would become apparent tthat they were being demonized."

That, Barnicle said, gave Gomes a sense of fairness that underguarded his political and religious beliefs.

“It’s not fair to go after people because of who they are, or because of their sexual orientation, or because of their color, or because of their income, or because of their zip code. That’s who he was, he was an expert in what’s fair,” Barnicle said.

Gomes was known for his soaring, intricate speaking style. "I like playing with words and structure," he said once, "Marching up to an idea, saluting, backing off, making a feint and then turning around."

"His sermons were actually high theater in my mind," Barnicle remembered.

Gomes did not leave behind a memoir; He said he'd start work on it when he retired, at 70. It's a shame, Barnicle said. "We need more of him than just a memoir, we need people like him every day."

Gomes reflected on his life's work — and his death — on Charlie Rose's talk show in 2007. 

I even have the tombstone the verse on my stone is to be from 2 Timothy. “Study to show thyself approved unto God a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” That’s what I try to do, that’s what I want people to thnk of me after I’m gone. When I was young, we all had to memorize vast quantities of scripture and I remember that passage from Timothy I thought, 'Hey that’s not a bad life’s work.' And in a way I’ve tried to live into it. So my epitaph is not going to be new to me, it’s the path I have followed in my ministry and my life.

Your comments: Did you ever hear Gomes speak? Share your memories.

About the Authors
Phillip Martin Phillip Martin
Phillip W. D. Martin is the senior investigative reporter for WGBH Radio News and executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions. In the past, he was a supervising senior editor for NPR, an NPR race relations correspondent and one of the senior producers responsible for creating The World radio program in 1995. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1998. Learn more at liftedveils.org.
WGBH News
The WGBH News team comprises the WGBH radio newsroom, The Callie Crossley Show, The Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Channel 2 reporters and producers from Greater Boston and Basic Black. 
Jess Bidgood Jess Bidgood
Jess Bidgood is WGBH.org's news editor and producer.

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