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Family marks 1 year since Pace football player shot

October 18, 2011 4:50:48 AM PDT
The family of a college football player who was fatally shot by New York police marked the anniversary of his death Monday by gathering at an athletic field named in his honor and vowing not to give up trying to find out exactly what happened the night he was killed.

Danroy "D.J." Henry Jr., a 20-year-old Pace University student, was killed Oct. 17, 2010, outside a bar in Thornwood, N.Y., just north of New York City.

Henry was parked in a fire lane when a police officer knocked on the driver's-side window. Police say Henry sped off, but his family says he moved away at an appropriate speed, believing the officer was instructing him to move.

Henry's car hit an officer who ended up on its hood and who fired through the windshield.

About three dozen relatives and friends gathered Monday outside a sports complex in his hometown of Easton, where the D.J. Henry Athletic Field was dedicated. Henry's family said he used to enjoy working out at the Evolution Sports complex, and the owner dedicated the field in his memory.

A grand jury cleared Pleasantville, N.Y., police Officer Aaron Hess of wrongdoing in Henry's death, but his parents are suing Hess for what they call an "unconscionable use of force."

"We still don't have answers to lots of questions we've been asking," Henry's mother, Angella, said Monday.

In a complaint filed in federal court in April, his parents said Hess violated the civil and constitutional rights of their son.

Hess shot Henry after a disturbance spilled out of a bar after the homecoming game at Pace, where Henry was a defensive back. His lawyer, John Grant, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

Hess has previously said that he was hit by the car driven by Henry and thrown onto the hood, leaving him no choice but to fire to stop the driver.

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

Brandon Cox, a close friend of Henry's who was in the car with him that night, said he wouldn't have gotten in the car if Henry were drunk. But even if the blood-alcohol results are correct, "Nothing he did that night warranted his life being taken," Cox said.

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.

Pleasantville police Chief Richard Love didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

Harvard professor Charles Ogletree, who is one of Cox's lawyers, said Henry's friends and family celebrate his life but "can't forget the way he died."

"We can't forget his last words - `They shot me. They shot me,"' Ogletree said.

The lawsuit alleged civil rights violations, but it doesn't mention race. Henry was black and Hess is white.

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

The Henry family and friend planned a vigil Monday night to mark the anniversary and celebrate his life.


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