Parents Of DJ Henry 'Insulted' By NY Officer Award

By Phillip Martin

Apr. 14, 2011

A poster of Danroy "DJ" Henry sits in the Henry's Easton home, signed by his friends and classmates. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

BOSTON — The family of an Easton, Massachusetts college student, who was fatally shot by a policeman in Westchester County, New York last year, is reacting angrily to a decision by a police union in that state to honor the officer involved.
Aaron Hess, a member of the Pleasantville police department has been awarded Officer of the Year by the town’s Police Benevolent Association.   
An attorney representing Officer Hess said, in a written statement,

The PBA's Award is an expression of support for the dignified and professional manner in which Officer Hess has conducted himself throughout his career and this ordeal, and most particularly, the very difficult aftermath of this tragic incident.

But Angella Henry, the mother of Danroy “DJ” Henry, described the award as “arrogant” and “insulting.” She and her husband, Danroy Henry Sr., plan next week to file a lawsuit against Pleasantville and Mt. Pleasant, New York, in connection with their son's death.

Officer Aaron Hess, shown here at his Marine Corps graduation, fatally shot DJ Henry last October.

DJ Henry was alleged to have driven his car toward Hess on the night of October 17, outside of Finnegan’s grill in Mt. Pleasant -- a popular bar/restaurant that has since closed.    
Officer Hess, according to witnesses, fired into the moving automobile as he clung to the hood of the car.
But the speed at which Henry was driving and the conflicting instructions from another officer are believed to have contributed to the tragic events of that evening. The officer reportedly instructed Henry to move his car from a fire lane just moments before he was shot.
An autopsy report showed that Henry’s alcohol blood level was slightly above the legal limit. But interviews with several witnesses who were in and outside of Finnegan's, including a bartender, said that Henry was not drinking that evening. He was the designated driver.
Witness accounts of what happened differ considerably from the police version of events in almost all respects. A Westchester County grand jury two months ago declined to charge officer Hess and another policeman with a crime.
But the legal wrangling is not over.  Next week, the Henry family will file a $100-million-dollar-plus lawsuit against the village of Pleasantville and the town of Mount Pleasant, New York. Danroy Henry Senior says the lawsuit will grant subpoena powers to his lawyers to collect video surveillance tapes and other items from the Westchester county DA’s Office:

“So we can go after evidence that’s been withheld from us to date and we hope its information the DA’s office pursued themselves, though we have real questions about whether they did, things like Aaron Hess' police record. We’d  like to see the tapes. We’d like to hear the 911 audio   We want access to the police reports that were filed that night.  Things that will be really important pieces of the truth gathering process, because we expect in them we will find contradictions,” Henry said.

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division is also investigating the shooting of DJ Henry.

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