It is the story that I have been dreading for nearly four months. On February 14, 2011, a Grand Jury in Westchester County declared that the death of Danroy DJ Henry (pictured) to be accidental. There will be no charges filed against Pleasantville Police Officer Aaron Hess and Mount Pleasant Police Officer Ronald Beckley. In an official press release from District Attorney Janet Defiore’s Office, more than eighty five people testified before this Grand Jury that was seated on January 10, 2011. Many of those who testified were Pace University students who were present outside Finnegan’s Bar and Grill in Thornwood, NY. Also interviewed were the two passengers in the car and of course the four police officers who initially responded to the call.
In addition to those witnesses, the investigation was conducted in conjunction with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, The District Attorney’s Office of High Technology Unit, The New York State Police, The Westchester County Police Department, The Westchester County Police Department Office of Forensic Identification, The Westchester Medical Examiner’s Office, And the Westchester County Department of Labs and Research, and the Mount Pleasant Police Department. That’s a whole lot of agencies that were called in to work on this investigation. But while there were many agencies who worked on this investigation, the most important decisions were charged to the Grand Jury; men and women like you and I who were charged with hearing all of this testimony and rendering a decision.
The work of a Grand Jury in this case was gargantuan at best. They were seated on this specific case knowing that no matter what the testimony before them, there would be a devastated loser. In this case, it is the family of DJ Henry. No parent wants to hear that their college age student is behind the wheel of a car while being impaired, but it is inconceivable to even imagine what they felt when they got the news that their child had been shot to death, and that he may have tried to run over a police officer. This was a trauma that parents will just never get over. Testifying before a Grand Jury and today’s rendering will add to the trauma that the Henry family has suffered since that fateful night back in October. In a statement today, Mr. Henry divulged that the family will not stop until Officer Hess is held accountable for the killing of their beloved DJ. This was a powerful statement from a dad who loved his son and who continues to seek justice for his murdered son.
But will Mr. Henry ever get the justice he seeks? It seems Doubtful. Will his broken heart ever heal? No, it won’t . Will the Pleasantville Police Department ever offer up Patrolman Aaron Hess in exchange for the death of DJ Henry? Of course not. Yet one can’t help but wonder if the Henry’s appeal to the United States Department of Justice is just another stab in the heart to a family that is already hemorrhaging from a broken heart.
There will be plenty of opinions and “guidance” rendered to the Henry family. There will be advice that is good, bad, and just downright ugly. There will be charges of racism and calls for the white police officers to be fired. As early as the week following the shooting, it was pretty much determined that those police officers shot out of panic and not because the color of the driver. In the fear of that moment, you can be sure that they would have shot someone who was green at that moment. To say that they shot this kid because he was black is ludicrous. They shot him because they were ill prepared for the chaos of that night. They shot him because in most of the small hamlet/villages that police officers work they don’t usually have to quell a crowd that has had a few too many. DJ was shot due to panic and miscommunication.
No one can bring Danroy Henry back from the dead, but we can do something to protect our college age children. Though they are underage, we’ll never stop them from drinking on campus during the weekends. We can try to limit their alcohol intake by cracking down on where and who they purchase it from. We need to crack down on underage drinking establishments. They need to make a decision, as to whether they turn away the business of those who are underage, as opposed to making a few extra bucks on a Saturday night. College officials and Resident Advisors must also crack down on the amount of drinking that goes on at any given campus here in the United States. Yeah, you won’t be the popular RA if you confiscate the booze but you might just be the RA who saves a life.
To the local police departments, particularly those in small village and hamlets…. You are not immune to the type of violence that is the norm in many urban settings. Alcohol, minors and crowds can occur anywhere and you need to train and be prepared for those instances when the three will come together in that often disastrous perfect storm.