LEGAL: DJ Henry’s Family Address Depositions from the Police BY NANCY KING and SAM ZHERKA
TARRYTOWN, NY -- 829 days have passed since Pace University student Danroy DJ Henry was shot to death by Mount Pleasant P.D., in Thornwood, New York, following what should have been a homecoming celebration with family, friends and classmates. Those 829 days are equal to 118 weeks; 118 weeks that a family has had to come to grips with the sad fact that their child was shot by police officers who were only supposed to be responding to a bar fight. Those 829 days are equal to 27 months; 27 months that a family has searched for an answer as to why their child died at the hands of a police officer with a gun. Those 829 days are equal to 2 years, 3 months and 6 days, the amount of time that we, along with the Henry family have waited for depositions; depositions that are hoped to shed some light on those horrible 20 seconds 829 days ago when DJ Henry was shot to death. Those 829 days of waiting have proven what some of us have known all along, and that is that the Mount Pleasant Police Department and the attorneys for Pleasantville Police Officer Aaron Hess, covered up the truth about Danroy Henry Jr.’s murder.
In the last few weeks, some of those depositions have been released by the Sussman and Watkins law firm based out of Goshen, NY. Wordy and tedious, those depositions clearly show that DJ Henry was indeed shot and killed by Pleasantville Police Officer Aaron Hess as he clung to the hood of DJ’s car. The testimony given by retired Mount Pleasant Police Officer Ronald Beckley clearly indicates Hess was the aggressor, throwing himself onto the hood of DJ Henry’s car and that Officer Beckley shot Hess in the knee after witnessing this aggressive lunge and in the darkness was unaware that he had shot a fellow police officer. All that Beckley did was shoot at an individual, who in the darkness was never identified as a police officer. More importantly that in the dark, and in the confusion, Beckley was able to see that Hess fired into the windshield of DJ Henry’s car and did so at point blank range.
There we have it… the truth, attested to by only one person, a police officer who was called to quell a melee and who had never discharged his weapon on anything other than a sick raccoon during his 30 years on the job; testifying that he had shot a man who he perceived as the aggressor, a man he believed lunged at and threw his body onto the hood of a car; the man he saw fire a shot point blank at DJ Henry through the windshield. It has taken 829 days to finally get someone to tell the truth; while his superiors tried desperately to cover that truth up.
The January 24, 2013 press conference conducted at the Doubletree Inn in Tarrytown, NY, presented the printed evidence, taken from former Officer Ronald Beckley’s sworn deposition that he knew that he shot P.O. Hess. Hess was never run over by DJ’s car causing his knee injury; he was shot by Beckley. Beckley admitted it to Mount Pleasant Lt. Brian Fanelli, and Fanelli and Chief Lou Alagno created a spin that pinned the blame entirely on the shoulders of a dead 20-year-old. People “heard” DJ was drunk, and “heard” he used his car as a lethal weapon… that’s what the Mount Pleasant Police wanted “us” to believe. Rather than tell the world the truth, they concocted a story and ran with it. They never told Police Officer Beckley their “concocted story”; he merely told the truth under oath.
Though this sort of spin isn’t surprising or even unusual, it is sad. Sadder still is that Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore and two of her investigators were aware of this spin just eight hours after the shooting. This is the same District Attorney who hugged the Henry Family, looked them in the eye and told them she would be careful, considerate, and would find the truth. What she did instead was to just make that “thin blue line” a little bit thicker and protected her own. Of course, DA DiFiore’s investigation never held Police Officer Hess culpable and of course, always sided with law enforcement. It was disappointing 2-years ago, but now we’ve come to expect cover-ups from that office. After all, in the time since DJ’s murder, we’ve watched her trump up charges against former White Plains Mayor Adam Bradley, and call the police shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. justified, and lets not forget about Nannygate. Governor Andrew Cuomo designated Janet DiFiore Director of the Board of JCOPE, the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, placing her in charge of his ethics committee so nothing is surprising about her decisions at this juncture. It’s all just so damn sad….
During the Grand Jury testimony, a twenty-year-old kid with no life experience whatsoever was presented as an irresponsible underage drinker who was using his car as a weapon. The truth, which 829 days later was proven by the testimony of Officer Beckley is that DJ Henry was nothing more than a scared and confused kid who was told one thing by one cop and told another thing by another cop and ended up getting shot to death by yet another cop who never bothered to communicate with his fellow officers. There you have it; DJ Henry was in essence, killed by miscommunication. And, this miscommunication was covered up by the Mount Pleasant Police Department and corroborated by Westchester Councy District Attorney Janet DiFiore, Board Director of JCOPE.
829 days later, I had a brief moment with Angella Henry, DJ’s mom. We hugged, and we cried. Our children started Iona together with the greatest of dreams. For the time being, mine gets to fulfill her dreams while Angella and Dan Sr. get to visit a headstone. For a brief moment, we were just two moms in a room sharing a “mom’s embrace” but I won’t renege on my promise to her…,” I’ll see this through with you until the end and the truth is finally revealed”.
Nancy King is a freelance reporter for The Westchester Guardian and Sam Zherka is its publisher.