On March 8, 2012, Magistrate Judge George A. Yanthis ruled that key elements of the DJ Henry shooting that was previously withheld will now be released to the public, including detective’s notes associated with the shooting, all video and audio of police interviews with witnesses, 911 calls, more than 100 witness statements and police radio transmissions on the night of the shooting. This verdict was an important win for the Henry family and supporters because now public could finally see if the evidence collected by Mt. Pleasant Police was collected in a truly fair and unbiased manner and how it was constructed to support the claims of their officer Arron Hess. The Henry family lawyers and the lawyers for the other pace students have stated from the beginning that in their opinion the investigation of the shooting was flawed.
“It is clear that there was no fair and impartial investigation into the shooting and brutality since the defendant Mount Pleasant Police Department was assigned by District Attorney Janet DiFiore to lead the investigation into its own misconduct and brutality,” said Bonita Zelman, a lawyer representing Mr. Hinds and four other Pace students. “Westchester County does not want the public to learn about the injustices that occurred in this case, but the public has a right to know about the coverup and that police brutality is alive and well in Westchester County.”
In the morning of Oct. 17, 2010 Police were summoned to the mall because of a reported disturbance at the local tavern. DJ Henry, a 20-year-old Pace University student, was shot and killed by Pleasantville Police Officer Arron Hess while trying to maneuver his car out of the Thornwood Shopping Center. Officer Hess, who fired his weapon through Henry’s windshield, fatally wounding the Easton, Mass., student and another bullet grazed passenger Brandon Cox. Henry’s teammates Delpeche, 23, of Brooklyn, Parker, 23, of Florida, and Garcia, 22, of Floral Park was brutalized, tasered and falsely arrested while they attempted to render first aid to the dying Henry while he laid on the ground in a pool of blood.
As any grieving family, all the Henry’s wanted was the truth about their son’s death. By his own admission, Officer Hess stepped in front of DJ’s car and left DJ very little time to stop. Witnesses, including the front seat passenger, cars parked behind DJ’s, and the bar owner, stated that DJ’s car was trying to stop before Mr. Hess opened fire on DJ’s car.
“We would have accepted from the beginning a simple story supported by fact and evidence,” Henry Sr. says. “What we’ve gotten instead is manipulation, tampering, arrogance and, now, a refusal to answer any legitimate questions. The effort to keep secret [the] fact[s] and truth and evidence here is just mind-boggling … What are you hiding?”
Brandon Cox, whose arm was grazed by a bullet, added, “He didn’t and we didn’t deserve anything that happened that night.” Cox’s mother told the Journal News, “D.J. started moving because he knew he was in the ‘no parking’ zone. As he was moving out, all of a sudden, another police officer jumps from behind a cruiser with gun drawn. D.J. didn’t have time to stop, and hit him. Then they just started shooting.”
As the investigation of the death of their son and the abuse of his friends continued, it became clear to the Henrys and supporters that the Westchester County District Attorney Janet Defiore was hiding the truth. This sentiment was reminiscent from shooting of Detective Ridley, the Mt. Vernon Detective that was fatally shot by County Police while he was trying to make an arrest off duty in plain clothes. Like the Ridley shooting there were inside leaks from the very beginning. With Detective Ridley they release the name of the only black officer on the scene Robert Martin as the shooter Ridley approximately 4 hours after the incident.
“The leaking of our brother Martin as the shooter of Chris could come from nowhere but the top,” said Damon K. Jones, New York Representative, Blacks In Law Enforcement of America. “Who leaked our brother’s name, what was their aim and purpose to do so? We see they have played the same dirty tricks with the killing of DJ Henry.”
In the DJ Henry shooting officials in Westchester County or medical examiner “leaked” unsubstantiated blood alcohol content, 4 days after DJ was killed after they told the Henry family the autopsy would take weeks. According to the Henry family, DJ’s autopsy was performed without any representation from the Henry family despite being informed that the family would be sending someone.
“As always, to cover up their dirty deeds co-conspirator from the inside leaking information to sway public opinion about the Henry case just like they did the Ridley,” said Jones. “As usual the local media ran with the leaks and assisted the covert operation of the cover up.”
Every step that the District Attorney’s office took in the investigation of the shooting of DJ Henry and the abuse of his teammates seemed oddly familiar to the investigation of the shooting of Detective Christopher Ridley.
“The playbook is the same”, said Stanley Ridley, father of Detective Ridley, the only thing that has changed in the Henry shooting is the players and now the information of the investigation is made public.”
“There are no words to express our disappointment in the grand jury’s decision,” Henry’s father, Danroy Henry Sr., said in a statement regarding the Danroy verdict to the Boston Globe. Henry continued, “Conclusions appear to have been drawn at the outset … and the entire process appears now to have been nothing short of an attempt to create better optics for the DA and her office.”
The Henrys’ lawyer, Michael Sussman, said he had voiced skepticism about the investigation from the beginning, in part because of the “profound institutional interests which connect the D.A.’s office and the local police agencies” in Westchester.
A lawyer for Mr. Cox, Charles Ogletree Jr., said he was “not surprised” by the grand jury’s decision not to issue indictments. “But I’m sorely disappointed,” he said. “It is a case that we said from the beginning needs some federal oversight, and I am confident that the Department of Justice will take a careful look.”
“The police beat and threatened them and used a Taser on one of them,” said Zelman. “No charges were brought against the police by the DA’s office or no departmental charges by their department.”
“There’s an old expression, the DA couldn’t indict a ham Sandwich. Meaning the grand jury will basically do whatever the DA wants”, said Jones. “The DA decides what evidence to present, what evidence not to present and how to argue it. Because all grand jury proceeding are close to the public, we have no way of knowing what testimony was given to the grand jury.”
In Westchester, there is one thing we do know is that under Janet Defiore as District Attorney, she has never prosecuted any police officer of Westchester County for any cases of Police Brutality. Janet Defiore has continuously turned over investigations of questionable police actions of use of force back to the police department in question and prosecuted the victims like Naimah Yancy, Dara Massey, Primivita Diaz, and Lance Cooper, Kenneth Kassiedu who brought forth complaints against the police in question and now suing for millions of dollars. She did the same in the DJ Henry shooting and the abuse of his teammates.
“We have a system that pays out millions of dollars of taxpayers money to families brutalized by the police but refuses to punish the police who commit the misconduct,” said Zelman. “The system in Westchester is broken and needs to be fixed.”
In a statement on YouTube, Mr. Henry stated the investigative process of his sons shooting was flawed. “Law enforcement should not be able to investigate themselves, produce their own evidence, prosecute themselves and draw their own conclusions without anybody ever seeing the evidence,” he said. “We wanted the evidence to be brought to the light of day so it can be subject to the scrutiny of lot of concerning and objective eyes.”
“We can’t let them forget what happen to Chris,” said Stanley Ridley. “Improper investigations, lack of training of officers, the truth must be told about DJ’s shooting and it will shed a clearer light on how they handled the investigation of the shooting of Chris”
It is clear that our District Attorney Janet Defiore is the “Poster Child” for the push for legislation for a State Wide Special Prosecutor for questionable police shootings and cases of police brutality. She has clearly shown that there is an insestual relationship between the District Attorney’s office and Westchester County Chiefs Association, who has raised campaign money and supported her politically. This is also supported by the silence of all elected officials. To date, there has not been ONE elected official in Westchester County to be outspoken on correcting use of force policies and oversight of law enforcement in Westchester County.
“How many more cases of killings of black men in Westchester should the family find out in federal deposition that the officers in question and supervisors falsified, or lied on the accounts of what happen when one of their loved one that was killed by a cop in Westchester,” said Jones. “What kind of investigation is the District Attorney’s office doing? Either they are incompetent or they are purposely overlooking incompetence of the police on major violations of policy, procedures by law enforcement that violate taxpayers civil and human rights.
Now that Judge Yanthis saw that in the interest if true justice all evidence be released, we will see what was really investigated and how the truth can possibly turned by political expediency or just plain old law enforcement biasness.
“New Yorkers must remain vigilant, and must keep up the pressure; the Justice Department will come around,” said Ron Hampton, Washington D.C. Representative of Blacks In Law Enforcement of America. “We have met with the DOJ in D.C., they are well aware what is happening in Westchester County.”