D.J. Henry wouldn't stop car, cop who shot him says
VideosOfficer's testimony in fatal Pace student shooting released Depositions in DJ Henry civil lawsuit to continue in a few days Danroy Henry case: Mount Pleasant police chief to answer questions
GalleriesDanroy Henry case continues
Web linksMore on this story on News12
Pleasantville Officer Aaron Hess said he had his gun drawn and pointed at Danroy "D.J." Henry's car as it approached him at a high rate of speed the night he shot and killed him outside a Thornwood bar.
Hess put his left hand up to signal the car and yelled for it to stop, he recalled.
"As the vehicle was approaching, I thought the vehicle was going to stop," he said during a deposition earlier in August in the federal lawsuit filed by Henry's family and several of his Pace University classmates and friends. "I believed it was going to stop because every other vehicle I've asked to stop in my career have stopped."
Hess said he had his gun drawn in his right hand and pointed toward the car driven by 20-year-old Henry as he stood in the roadway on Oct. 17, 2010.
Hess said he "lunged" onto the car after it struck his legs. He said it seemed the driver -- who he only saw as a silhouette -- was trying to throw him off the car.
"At that time is when I ... I fired my weapon," he said under questioning at the deposition by Michael Sussman, the Henry family's lawyer.
Hess said he aimed for the center mass of the driver and fired "three or four" shots, killing Henry.
Part of Hess' testimony seems to contradict reports from an earlier deposition Pleasantville officer, Kevin Gilmartin, who said Hess signaled for Henry to stop with his right hand and was thrown onto the car by the impact. Only then did he draw his weapon and fire, according to Gilmartin's report.
Henry's mother, Angela, said Thursday night that Hess' deposition shows the first of several contradictions that will be revealed by the lawsuit.
"Now Hess admits to having his gun already out while he crossed the yellow line into the path of D.J.'s car," she said in a statement. "Then (he) wonders why D.J. didn't stop. Our son didn't even have a chance to stop."
That night, Hess and other officers had been called to Finnegan's bar to deal with a group of unruly partiers who had been kicked out of the tavern. Henry and two friends were idling in a car near Finnegan's when police told them to move the vehicle.
Some witnesses and Henry's family disagree with the officers' accounts, contending that Henry was just obeying police instructions to move the car when he drove off at a normal speed.
Henry's father, Dan Henry, argued yesterday that the police have altered their explanation of Henry's death to make their account square with evidence at the scene.
"That statement has evolved because the facts aren't there to support it," Henry said of the original police account.
He added, "We just think frankly that taking a human life should be subject to a very high standard. How can it be that we should now accept a lesser standard for the taking of our son's life. Was this justified? Show us the evidence that it was justified and we'll accept it. Clearly to us this was not justified and it's being proven more so by the day."
By all accounts, the scene outside the bar was chaotic. Hess said he was only peripherally aware of another officer near him when he heard the revving of an engine and the officer yell for the driver to stop.
Hess described confusion -- "it happened so quickly" -- and told Sussman he was holding on to the edge of the car hood with his left hand when he raised the gun in his right hand and fired "three or four" shots at Henry.
Henry's car struck a parked car, and Hess was thrown from the vehicle, he testified. It was only later, he said, that he learned he'd shot Henry.
"I saw the silhouette. I didn't physically see a driver or who it was. I wouldn't be able to describe who was driving that vehicle," Hess testified.
Hess' lawyer, Brian Sokoloff, declined to comment on the deposition Friday. "The testimony speaks for itself," he said.
Hess was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a grand jury, but Henry's family filed a civil suit, naming Hess and the village of Pleasantville as defendants.
Hess was honored in April 2011 as Officer of the Year by the Pleasantville Police Benevolent Association.
In June 2011, Hess filed a lawsuit against Briarcliff Wines and Liquors, alleging store employees sold alcohol to the 20-year-old Pace student. That lawsuit is still pending.