Mar. 12, 2012
BOSTON — Eyes and ears are on video tapes and 911 calls this week: sights and sounds that may add understanding to how a college student from Easton, Mass., was shot dead by a Westchester County, N.Y., police officer. Check out the documents.
At 11:15 a.m. on Monday, previously unavailable documents related to the shooting of DJ Henry were made available to the public. The Pace University student, who graduated from Oliver Ames High School, was shot and killed in front of a popular college hangout in Thornwood, N.Y., in October 2010 by Pleasantville, N.Y., police officer Aaron Hess. Hess said that Henry tried to run him over and he fired his weapon in self-defense. Hess and a fellow policeman were cleared by a New York grand jury.
The Henry family sued in federal court to have the documents that had been suppressed in the case made public. The investigative file was compiled by the Mt. Pleasant and Pleasantville police and contains hundreds of individual items, including 911 calls, video and witness statements. A federal judge in White Plains last week ruled that a confidentially order should be lifted.
The 911 audio purports to demonstrate Hess discussing his own physical condition and stating that he is OK. However, the video embedded above, according to the attorney for the family, Michael Sussman, shows medical crews tending to Hess but not Henry, who was pulled from his car onto the street after he was shot. Other documents, according to Sussman, include evidence that a dash camera from a police cruiser was purposely disabled, as well as witness affidavits alleging that Hess drew his gun prior to impact with the vehicle driven by Henry. The file further contains confirmation of deadly force training and standard operating procedures for Mt. Pleasant and Pleasantville police departments that strongly prohibit firing at a moving vehicle.
Sussman said at a Mar. 12 press conference that the attorneys would continue to release materials. He declined, however, to give many opinions on those materials: "I am not going to try this case in the media. I am giving you information which is relevant to questions many of you have asked since October of 2010 — rates of speed of the car, was [Hess'] gun out when he came into the street and numerous, numerous other questions. I am not going to interpret the information except in a court.”
Robert Johnson, a lawyer involved in one of eight civil cases related to the Henry shooting, said in an interview with WGBH News that this case has national and constitutional significance. He believed that the 13th amendment would weigh heavily in the federal civil rights trail, which Sussman says is quite a ways off. The Henry family was scheduled to meet with Justice Department lawyers on Monday.
COMPLETE WGBH COVERAGE
Sign-up for WGBH News updates, WGBH promotions, and previews of what's coming up on WGBH TV.