DJ Henry's Father: Contradicting Accounts of Son's Death Reveal Lack of Justification
The release of Aaron Hess' deposition Thursday shows disparities in witness accounts, DJ Henry's father Danroy Henry Sr. Says.
Danroy Henry Sr., the father of Easton native DJ Henry - who was shot and killed by New York Police Officer Aaron Hess Oct. 17, 2010 - said that the standards of justification for his son's death are being lowered by contradicting statements made by witnesses and Hess himself.
"If you allege that a wrong was committed that required the use of deadly force to stop, and if what you allege then is proven to be false then the standard that would apply to justify the taking of that life turns into a lesser one," Henry said.
Henry, along with his lawyer Michael Sussman, spoke with the media on a conference call Friday - a day after the transcript Hess' deposition given in Federal Court was released to the public.
Hess was grilled by Sussman as part of a federal lawsuit brought forth by the Henry family.
A Westchester County grand jury failed to indict Hess in the fatal shooting of the 20-year-old college student last year. The Henrys then filed a civil lawsuit, naming Hess and the Village of Pleasantville.
Friday, Sussman and Henry pointed to alleged contradictions made by Hess and fellow police officers on the scene, particularly Pleasantville Officer Kevin Gilmartin, now a sergeant.
In Gilmartin's sworn statement, which was given under the direction of his police department the morning after the shooting, he said he arrived and was standing behind Hess when the incident occurred.
"I was standing on the median near the rear of my RMP when I saw PO Hess step out into the roadway, put up his right hand and begin to yell at the vehicle to stop," Gilmartin said in his statement.
Gilmartin goes on to say he saw Henry's vehicle strike Hess in his knees throwing him onto the hood of the car before he drew his gun.
"I saw the front drivers side of the vehicle strike PO Hess in his knees, throwing PO Hess on top of the hood of the vehicle," said Gilmartin in his statement. "I heard and saw the vehicle continue to accelarate at a high rate of speed with PO Hess clinging to the hood of the vehicle. I saw PO Hess draw his firearm and fire into the windshield of the vehicle."
In Hess' deposition released yesterday, he tells Sussman he drew his gun with his right hand before he "lunged forward" as the vehicle hit his legs.
The deposition, Sussman said, directly contradicts Gilmartin's original statement.
"[Gilmartin] says he sees the car strike Hess [who] doesn’t have his weapon out and is standing in the middle of the road," Sussman said. "Hess himself testified that he jumped up on the hood of the car with the weapon drawn and within seconds started shooting and killing DJ."
While in Gilmartin's statement, given nearly two years ago, he said he heard Hess yelling for Henry's car to stop, Sussman said that in his deposition made this past week, Gillmartin claimed he did not hear anyone yelling for the car to stop.
In Gilmartin’s deposition, he is questioned by Sussman. Transcripts have yet to be released to the public.
"His deposition is shocking and it will be released hopefully in the next two weeks," Sussman said.
Henry said accounts made to justify his son's death made in the hours and days following the incident have not been proven.
"What’s happened instead is we’ve gotten reductions in the levels of justification because the evidence doesn’t support the claims that were made," he said." In fact, they contradict the claims that were made.
"It’s clear to us, this was not justified. It’s proven less so by the day."
Sergeant Gilmartin and Pleasantville Police Chief Richard Love were not immediately available for comment Friday afternoon.