Northern Suburbs News

Parents sue policeman in killing of Pace student

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The parents of a college football player have sued the policeman who shot and killed him, calling the shooting an "unconscionable use of force."

In a complaint filed Wednesday in federal court, Danroy Henry Sr. and Angella Henry of Easton, Mass., said the officer violated the civil and constitutional rights of their son, Danroy Henry Jr. They demanded compensation for their son's death and their suffering.

"Our son was wrongfully killed," Danroy Henry Sr. said at news conference outside the family home. In a statement accompanying the lawsuit, the parents said: "The pain of losing our son so suddenly is insatiable and not only has his absence changed us forever, but his suffering will always haunt us as well."

The Pleasantville, N.Y., officer, Aaron Hess, was cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury in February. His colleagues recently named him Officer of the Year. His lawyer, John K. Grant, did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Hess shot Henry through the windshield of Henry's car Oct. 17 as the 20-year-old drove away from a disturbance that spilled out of a bar in Thornwood, N.Y., after the Pace University homecoming game.

Autopsy results found Henry's blood-alcohol level above the legal driving limit, but the family says Henry was not drunk.

Hess has said he was hit by the car, thrown onto the hood and had no choice but to fire to stop the driver.

In their complaint, the Henrys said the car was moving at a reasonable speed. They said Hess jumped in front of the car, "ascended" the hood and fired at their son for no good reason.

Family lawyer Michael Sussman said later that witnesses saw Hess jump onto the hood.

"The murder of Mr. Henry was without justification," he added at a news conference outside the courthouse in White Plains.

Danroy Henry Sr. said the account in the complaint was based on "multiple eyewitnesses."

The complaint said the shooting was "the sort of action which must be eliminated and deterred to preserve the values of a civilized society."

Henry said the lawsuit will give the family a chance to subpoena surveillance video and 911 recordings.

"We don't know what's on them, but we think if that material was helpful to the other side they would have been released already," he said.

The complaint said Henry, who was a defensive back for Pace, "planned to pursue a career in the National Football League and/or business" and his death caused his parents monetary harm.

The lawsuit also named the village of Pleasantville as a defendant. It said the village contributed to Henry's death by failing to properly train and supervise Hess.

Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer said, "Neither the Village nor Officer Aaron Hess violated any laws or rules of conduct."

The lawsuit alleged civil rights violations, but there was no mention of race in the complaint. Henry was black and Hess is white.

The parents have previously refused to blame the shooting on racial prejudice, saying they did not know what was in Hess' heart.

"We don't know why he did it," the father said Wednesday. "We've focused instead on what he did."

However, the Henrys have requested a federal investigation, and the Justice Department has said it would review the case for possible civil rights violations.

The Henrys said in January they also planned to sue the town of Mount Pleasant because a Mount Pleasant officer also fired at Henry's car. But Sussman, their lawyer, said Wednesday they decided to sue only those who whose actions caused their son's death.

No specific amount of damages was listed in the complaint.

Sussman said in January the Henrys would seek $120 million but he said Wednesday the matter would be left to the jury.

He said the case could take more than three years.

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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danroy henry jr., pace university, northern suburbs news
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