Officer in Danroy Henry Shooting Named “Officer of the Year”

Is this honor a miscarriage of justice?

Posted: 04/14/2011 08:57 AM EDT
Filed Under Danroy Henry Jr.

The police officer who shot and killed Pace University student Danroy “DJ” Henry Jr. in 2010 was named “Officer of the Year” by a local police union.

The Police Benevolent Association of the Pleasantville Police Department said officer Aaron Hess was chosen for his dignity and professionalism after the shooting.

Last October, Danroy Henry was a young man with his whole life ahead of him. A 20-year-old college junior, Henry was on the varsity defensive team for the university football team. In the early hours of Sunday, Oct. 17, Henry's life was cut short. Parked in a fire lane of a sports bar where a fight broke out, a witness account says that Henry stopped then accelerated as Hess stepped in front of the car. In the ensuing chaos, Henry was shot and killed as Hess fired into the car. In an eerie yet familiar similarity to the Sean Bell shooting, DJ's friends and teammates are thrown to the ground and arrested and later charged and cleared of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction of justice. Danroy Henry died at the scene.

In the months following Henry's death, charges are brought against the officers involved with the shooting. However, in a stunning blow for Henry's family and friends, a grand jury declines to indict. The officers maintained their stance that Henry had presented himself as a clear threat and Officer Hess had no choice but to shoot. 

In the time since the shooting, the Pleasantville Police Department has yet to offer an apology to DJ's family, choosing instead blame the events of that night on "alcohol-induced behavior" on the part of the students.

While Henry's parents hope for vindication in the form of a federal indictment against the Pleasantville officers, Hess is named a hero. Henry's parents were understandably outraged at the dubious honor.

“It speaks to the arrogance that we have experienced since Oct. 17, 2010,” Henry’s mother, Angella, said in a statement. “It just shows their inhumanity and their arrogance and we just continue to move forward and fight for justice for our son and we hope that the Justice Department will look at everything carefully.”

In his obituary, Danroy Henry was described “as a selfless individual who would give you the shirt off of his back, a stand up person who always did the right thing, had a smile that would light up the room, and had a contagious laugh.” 

After a New York grand jury decided not to indict any of the police officers involved in the shooting death of Henry, the Department of Justice announced in February that it planned to open an investigation into the fatal shooting.

DJ's untimely death hasn't gone in vain; Henry's family has created the DJ Dream Fund, a scholarship for student-athletes so the young man with the infectious smile can live on.

BET News reports:

Henry Memorial Service

Scene of the Shooting

DJ’s Brother Remembers

Related reading:

Justice Department to Investigate Fatal Shooting of Danroy Henry

The Obituary of Danroy Henry Jr.