Danroy Henry And Trayvon Martin

We All Need To Work And To Care About Making Sense Of All Of This


It was back in the spring of 1999, maybe a week or so after the shooting massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado.  I was with a friend at the restaurant Pier 4 in Boston, to attend an event at which former Secretary of the Navy, Jim Webb, was speaking, and which he would also sign copies of his new novel, The Emperor’s General

Jim Webb is what you call as standup as standup can be:  accomplished, honorable, courageous, and very smart.   I admire him tremendously.  At the time of the event at Pier 4, his career was that of a successful filmmaker and author.  He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and had gone on to  the Marine Corps, and on to Vietnam where he became a highly decorated combat leader. 

Today, Jim Webb is a U.S. Senator from Virginia.

At Pier 4, Webb spoke to a big crowd prior to signing books.   He was asked about Columbine – and I remember him calling the event “clearly horrific,” and also, and this is the gist of his comments, he said that he had other thoughts and opinions on what happened, but he chose not to express them at that time.

Jim Webb’s reserve and tact and responsible position in response to the Columbine question are instructive for all of us.

And this guidance is helpful when we think about two national events, one of which is directly tied to and has roots in Easton, that have enflamed public and private discourse – and which have the potential to foment into dangerous societal unrest. 

Danroy “DJ” Henry Jr., 20, an graduate, and football player at Pace University, was shot and killed by a policeman, Aaron Hess, in the early morning hours of Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010, outside a sports bar in the Westchester County, NY village of Pleasantville, which is a little more than 30 miles from New York City. 

Henry was behind the wheel of a car when he was shot.  In the passenger seat next to him was his good friend, Brandon Cox, 20, also an OA graduate and football player for .   Cox and Henry were teammates on the OA football team.  Cox received a graze wound from one of the bullets Officer Hess fired.  

The day prior to the shooting, Stonehill had played a game at Pace.

On the evening of February 26, this year, last month, in a gated community in the Florida city of Sanford, Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot and killed by 28-year-old, George Zimmerman, who was a volunteer in the community as an unofficial security guard and monitor. 

Danroy Henry and Trayvon Martin are black.    

Aaron Hess is white.  George Zimmerman is biracial, white and Hispanic.   Both men said they shot in self-defense.

A grand jury cleared Officer Hess of wrongdoing. George Zimmerman has not been charged with a crime – although he still may be. 

The deaths of Danroy Henry and Trayvon Martin have occasioned wholly justified anger and calls for an investigation and a finding of facts.    

But let us remember and be advised – and young people take this as an early lesson you need to learn well and embrace – is that not only do actions have consequences, but so too do words.

Last week I was listening to the radio show of Michael Graham; it’s on the Boston FM station 96.9 WTKK.   He was talking about the Trayvon Martin case. 

Now I need to say that I am fairly conservative, and I agree with much of what Michael Graham says on the air.   But I felt that on this day he was being particularly incendiary and blasé about the shooting.  It was almost as if Graham was certain that from what we know it was appropriate that Zimmerman not be charged. 

Well, okay … from what we know … but there is still so much we don’t know about what happened.  And, while, sure, it is entirely possible that George Zimmerman justifiably shot Trayvon Martin – there are just so many questions that remain – and therefore it is irresponsible and immature - but totally his right - for Michael Graham to take the position he did and talk in such a smug way about it on the radio.

As well, we can ask questions in measured and thoughtful way – and I know this can be very difficult to do – and not tether this inquiry to a call for violence, which some are doing. 

Whether or not George Zimmerman was a vigilante – it is filthy, and it is infinitely dangerous, to call for vigilantism in response to Zimmerman pulling that trigger and killing Trayvon Martin. 

Race baiters exploiting tragedy is repugnant all around.     

A super op-ed ran two days ago in the Wall Street Journal; it was authored by Juan Williams, a gifted and accomplished journalist and social commentator who, yes, is of African descent.  Mr. Williams put things in perspective in his op-ed; here is a link to his piece:  The Trayvon Martin Tragedies   

And now let’s go back to October 17, 2010, in Pleasantville, NY.   I don’t know all of what happened on that morning.  I can’t begin to know the pain and anguish that Danroy Henry’s family feels.  

I didn’t know Danroy Henry, and I don’t know his family.  From what I understand, Danroy Henry was good kid, and his family are good people.  I’ve heard very good things about the Henrys. 

For sure, you can do all the research you want, and you will find that the Henry family is a class and virtuous act only seeking truth and justice.

It is possible that Danroy Henry believed he was doing nothing wrong, at the same time that Officer Aaron Hess thought he was responding appropriately?   I suppose. Yes, it is possible. 

But, again, words have consequences – and so too do actions. 

Without making a judgment on whether Officer Hess’s pulling the trigger that morning was right, wrong, or somewhere in between, I think it was an unnecessary slap in the face to the Henry family when not even a year after this tragedy went down – and I don’t care where you stand on this event, it was a tragedy – the Police Benevolent Association of Pleasantville named Officer Hess as its “Officer of the Year.” 

I mean, really.   

Even if you thought without reservation that Officer Hess deserved this recognition, don’t you think that it might be best, might be most right, to save off bestowing this honor for another year or two? 

I throw down this criticism believing that there are few people more valuable and worthy of our respect in society than good, hardworking, and honest police officers. 

It is all percolating now – all bubbling in our social conscience – what happened on February 26th.  

And, we think back and try to make sense of what happened on Oct. 17 in 2010. 

So I besiege everyone to think -  to think deeply and thoroughly - about what happened, and about what we don’t know – and what we do know, and what we hope to understand.   

As ever, now, we need to reflect and figure on ways to appreciate and know and get to the truth – and to reserve our expressed judgment until – if this is possible – we comprehensively can get a hold of what happened. 

For, as always – as always in the past, as will always be in the future –we can only make responsible and helpful commentary when combining the broad perspective of history with the most honest hopes for people to perform at their best – and to treat one another with respect, love, and dignity. 

Jimmy Donnelly March 29, 2012 at 10:57 PM
My opinion is that commenting on the specifics/motives of the Trayvon/Zimmerman situation is just speculation for speculation sake. They are both minorities and it's an awful situation. We don’t really know any more than that. The most significant problem holding back America with regard to race relations is the acceptance of Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson as legitimate leaders in the black community. These men are race hustlers; they create racial tension and feed off of it as life blood. You cannot have these two men, instigators of hate, involved in serious conversations about race any more than you could involve David Duke. Sharpton and Jackson are buffoons, flailing away in a desperate attempt at relevance. Let’s look to men like C.L. Bryant, a former NAACP Director, for leadership, not those two opportunists.
Harris Shilakowsky March 30, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I agree that we need to be thoughtful, but I also agree with those voices calling for equal justice under the law. A person who is shot has been silenced. They cannot defend themselves any longer. The people left holding the power are those who held the firearm, and those who defend them. Holding people accountable for their actions must first always be directed towards those who commit acts of deadly violence, and a gun is an instrument of death...not a 'peacemaker'. It is not a subtle act...the use of a firearm. It is a statement that all efforts at resolving a problem have failed. It says we haven't tried to do the wisest of all actions...to turn the other cheek and allow the other party to leave peacefully. If we can't trust a trained police officer to act responsibly....and the proof is not all in in the case of Danroy Henry's being shot to death...then how can we as a society allow untrained vigilantes to carry firearms and to use them against other citizens? Instead of "guns don't kill people, people kill people" we should perhaps say that "...people who carry guns on their person whilst looking for people to aim at kill people..." Who is it that makes life unsafe for our children? Here is my musical answer to think about. Its in the form of a letter to President Obama. http://youtu.be/Ptb3du2l_dY I pray for peace and justice for the families of violence. Wherefore thou goest, there go I.
Bob Mielde April 24, 2012 at 01:40 PM
As a person who supports the 2nd Amendment Rights granted by our Constitution, I am also one who disagrees with; Assault Rifles for general sale; better yet - for ALL states in our great nation to perform FULL background checks before issueing a permit to carry a weapon. Massachusetts is one of the toughest in this area! Do some police take things a tad over the top? Absolutely. But to refer to somebody as a vigilante is crosses that line as well. None of us were there to know exactly what went on in either situation, and we all answer to 'The Man Upstairs' eventually. The answer is tighter licensing background checks for individuals AND police! Unfortunately, NoBama & Hillary are on a mission to completely remove the 2nd Amendment and my response is that of many; " You can have guns when you pry my dead, cold fingers from them!"


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