Without Indictment, Henry Family Plans to Move Forward With Civil Case
A grand jury announced Monday that there would not be an indictment against New York police officers.
While awaiting news as to whether there would be an indictment against the New York police officers who killed their son, the Henry family said they were hopeful that they would be surprised.
But, when Danroy Henry Sr. received a call from the Westchester County, N.Y. District Attorney's office Monday, there was no surprise - and there was no indictment.
"We would have been surprised if there was an indictment," said Danroy Henry Sr. outside of his Symphony Drive home Monday evening.
Henry said Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore's investigation into the case was a shield to "improve the optics" of the situation. He said that from the beginning, there was no attempt to "find the truth" in what actually happened to his son the early morning of Oct. 17 outside of a bar in Thornwood, N.Y., when Oliver Ames High School graduate and Pace University football player D.J. Henry was shot and killed by Pleasantville Police Officer Aaron Hess. Mount Pleasant Police Officer Ronald Beckley also fired shots.
"They weren't pursuing the truth," said Angella Henry, DJ Henry's mother. "If they were pursuing the truth, we would be standing here saying something different right now."
Now, the Henry family plans to move forward, both with a civil suit and a continued quest for murder charges. The Henrys have already filed a notice of claim for $120 million against the municipalities of Pleasantville and Mount Pleasant N.Y, and have continued to ask the federal government to step in. The family said in a statement that they would ask the U.S. Department of Justice to act.
In a statement released by the District Attorney's office, the grand jury "found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment."
According to the statement, "more than 400 people were interviewed by investigators in New York and elsewhere" during the duration of the case.
The 23 jurors who began an examination of the evidence on Jan. 10 heard testimony from 85 witnesses during the hearing, 46 of whom were Pace University students. Testimonies were heard from Henry Sr., as well as Easton native and Stonehill College student Brandon Cox, DJ Henry's friend sitting in the front seat of the car the morning of the shooting.
Four police officers who were at the scene testified during the hearing, including Hess and Beckley. A ballistics expert also testified.
The Henrys, though, said the grand jury did not hear all of the evidence.
The family lawyer, Michael Sussman said in a phone conference Monday that some evidence was left out of the grand jury proceedings purposely, including an 80-minute tape showing the interview of one of the passengers in DJ Henry's car. Further, said Sussman, prior to when Danroy Henry Sr. testified before the grand jury, he was told not to speak too much about his son's character as it would "taint the grand jury."
Danroy Henry Sr. also said that DJ Henry's sister, Amber, a sophomore at Oliver Ames High School was not asked to testify. Henry Sr. said Amber Henry's testimony could have been crucial to the hearings and proven his son's clear head the morning of the shooting.
Police accounts say that Henry sped off from the fire lane when an officer asked him to move. Hess, who shot Henry while on the hood of the 20-year-old's car, said there was no time for him to get out of the way.
"We know [evidence] was withheld," Danroy Henry Sr. said. "Amber was texting with him well into the night and early morning."
The Henry family has asked for an outside presence to step in since October, supporting letter-writing campaigns to the New York Governor's office and Attorney General. The family visited elected officials in Washington and the Easton Board of Selectmen, upon request from the Henry family, wrote a letter asking for an independent investigation as well.
"An investigation led by a police department employing one of the officers, working very closely with the department employing our son's killer and a District Attorney DiFiorie and her office more concerned about keeping us shielded from the truth yielded an outcome we predicted," the family said in a statement.
The family said they hope New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will intercede along with the U.S. Department of Justice.
"Consistent with our practice in cases of this kind, the Department of Justice will review all of the available evidence with respect to the death of Danroy Henry, Jr., including the evidence available to the Westchester County District Attorney's Office, to determine whether there were any violations of the federal criminal civil rights laws," said Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York in a statement Monday.
While Monday didn't yield an indictment, the family said they will continue to pursue murder charges through different avenues. According to Angella Henry, the fight has just begun.
"We're interested in a conviction," Danroy Henry Sr. said. "We are seeking a conviction. Period."