WHITE PLAINS -- A retired policeman says he shot at another officer in 2010 because he believed the officer was "the aggressor" in the shooting that killed a college football player from Massachusetts.
He did not realize he was shooting at a fellow officer, he said.
"I was shooting at a person that I thought was the aggressor and was inflicting deadly physical force on another," former Mount Pleasant Officer Ronald Beckley said last week in a deposition at federal court in White Plains.
The deposition was part of a lawsuit brought by the college student's parents against Pleasantville Officer Aaron Hess. Their lawyer released a transcript, partially blacked out.
Hess has acknowledged firing the shots that killed Pace University football player Danroy Henry Jr. of Easton, Mass., in October 2010, after police were called to a disturbance that had spilled out of a bar in Thornwood, a New York City suburb, a hamlet in the town of Mount Pleasant in Westchester County, on Homecoming Day.
Hess said Henry drove toward him in the strip mall parking lot outside the bar. He said he tried to get Henry to stop, then had to lunge onto the hood of the car to avoid being run over. He said he fired through the windshield to stop the driver.
Beckley said in his deposition that he heard a shot before he saw a dark figure on the hood of Henry's car.
Hess was cleared by a grand jury. Henry's parents, Danroy and Angella Henry, are suing him and the village of Pleasantville.
Hess' lawyer, Brian Sokoloff, noted that he has not yet questioned Beckley and said: "Beckley was not the only person at the scene. There are other statements from other individuals and it will be up to a jury to decide if Beckley is telling the truth." As an example, Sokoloff released a video of a 20-year-old student telling police just hours after the killing that Hess did not pull his gun out until he was on the hood. The student, Kevin Scott, also says Hess tried to get Henry to slow down, but "he didn't slow down." "Then I saw the police officer on top of the car," Scott says. "And then I saw shots." An autopsy found that Henry's blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit for driving, but his family denies he was drunk.
Henry's father said Monday that the video was an attempt to "muddy the waters" after the release of Beckley's deposition. He is alleging a cover-up and calling for a federal investigation.
In March, when evidence from the criminal case was released, it included an account by a lieutenant who said Beckley told him he was afraid he had shot Hess and wept with relief when told he hadn't.
Beckley renounced parts of that statement in his deposition, denying, for example, that he feared for his own life during the incident.
Beckley was apparently not asked during the deposition, parts of which were redacted on the transcript, whether he still believes Hess was the aggressor.