Family of local college student killed by police in NY wants case reopened

Family of local college student killed by police in NY wants case reopened

EASTON, Mass. — Danroy “DJ” Henry was a junior playing football at Pace University when his life was cut short a decade ago after he was shot by police outside a New York sports bar in 2010.

His younger sister Amber Henry spoke to 25 Investigates about her fight for justice for DJ and the events of recent weeks against racial injustice.

“This has been my life for ten years, my family’s lives for ten years so this is definitely nothing new for us,” said Amber. “We’re just hoping this is the one that changes it.”

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Amber has been sharing her brother’s story at protests in and outside Boston. Since the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, she says more people are listening.

“It hurts my heart, it happened to my brother," said Amber. “Every time this happens it feels like its pulling at a wound I have that, unfortunately, will never go away and I hope for countless others that they never have to experience what we’re experiencing and what we have experienced.”

In the fall of 2010, the 20-year old Easton native was shot and killed by former police officer, Aaron Hess. Initially, Hess claimed DJ tried to run him over with this car. He later admitted in court that he could have stepped out of the way.

Another officer at the scene testified that Hess was the aggressor when he jumped on the hood of DJ’s car and fired multiple shots through the windshield. DJ was pulled from the vehicle. Cellphone video shows him handcuffed and left bleeding on the pavement.

“I watched my brother on the ground take his last couple of breaths and it’s hard for me to really understand,” said Amber.

In 2015, the Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute Hess for DJ’s killing. A year later the family received a $6 million settlement from Hess and the Town of Mount Pleasant, New York.

Amber believes if her brother’s death had occurred today, perhaps the outcome would have been different.“I think people are very adamant about change, especially this generation,” she said.

Amber told 25 Investigates that she wants her brother’s case to get a second look, and now is the right time for that, adding that she wants Hess to be criminally prosecuted.

“This was murder," said Amber. "It’s plain and simple. It’s obvious it didn’t have to end this way. I have a hope in my heart and a fire in my soul that I’m not going to give up until it happens. I know if my brother was here he would do the same thing for me.”

DJ’s case and name have become part of a growing movement Amber is proud to support. His name has been put on protests signs across the country and in 2011 he was named in the Murder to Excellence song by Jay-Z and Kanye West.

“We’re never anti-police, we’re anti-Aaron Hess because that is the man that decided to use deadly force and kill my brother,” said Amber. “I believe people need to start looking within themselves, you know, looking within themselves to see if they’re part of the problem or they’re part of the solution. And that’s the first step.”

25 Investigates asked the Westchester County district attorney’s office if they would consider the Henry family’s call to prosecute Aaron Hess. In an emailed statement after the story aired, a spokesperson said: “Under the former District Attorney, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office thoroughly investigated the shooting presented the case to a Westchester County Grand Jury at the time of the shooting. The Grand Jury declined to bring charges against the police officer," and the U.S. Attorney’s office reviewed the case and did not file charges.

“There have been no requests to the Office to reopen the case,” the DA’s office said, adding that it could only be reopened if new evidence is discovered, and “at this time, there are no plans by this office to reopen the case.”

To learn more about DJ Henry and the charitable fund visit djdreamfund.org.

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