Justice Department to Investigate Fatal Shooting of Danroy Henry

Agency will focus on whether athlete's civil rights were violated.

Posted: 02/16/2011 12:31 PM EST
Danroy Henry

The Department of Justice plans to open an investigation into the fatal shooting of Danroy Henry Jr., a Pace University football player, outside a bar in Thornwood, N.Y., last October.

A New York grand jury decided earlier this week not to indict any of the police officers involved in the Oct. 17 shooting death of Henry. After interviews of more than 400 people by investigators, the grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment, Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said in a statement. (More on the DJ Henry shooting)

Pleasantville officer Aaron Hess and Mount Pleasant officer Ronald Beckley both fired shots into Henry's car as the athlete was trying to drive away from the crowd.

The Department of Justice will review the case to see whether the officers, who are white, violated civil rights laws regarding official misconduct.

"Now that the local investigation has concluded, and consistent with department policy, we will examine all of the available evidence to determine whether there are any prosecutable federal civil rights violations," said spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, according to Reuters.

“There are no words to express our disappointment in the grand jury's decision to issue a no true bill in the case of our son's killing,” the Henry family said in a statement about the grand jury decision. “While losing DJ has been tragic for our family, a compounding tragedy is the reality that this grand jury result is most certainly the result of a process not designed to tell the truth but, rather, to minimize the civil and criminal liability of agencies involved in his death.”

Henry’s family and supporters have questioned whether police used excessive force in shooting Henry.

Authorities say Henry, 20, was parked in a fire lane outside a suburban New York bar and then sped away from officers who rapped on his car window, hitting one who clung to the hood as the sedan barreled toward a colleague. But the father of a passenger in the car says the driver took off because he thought police wanted him to move—and he denied that an officer was struck, according to the Associated Press.

Henry family attorney Michael Sussman expects the DOJ investigation to be more thorough and impartial.

"We hope the Justice Department's investigation is a complete one," he said in an interview with Reuters. "We think they are more divorced from the situation and will bring a greater level of integrity."


Image:  Family Photo