By Larry Hales
Early in the morning of Oct. 17, Pace University student Danroy (DJ) Henry Jr. and his friends Brandon Cox and Desmond Hinds were parked outside Finnegan’s Grill, a bar in Thornwood, N.Y., in Westchester County.
According to reports, they were waiting for a fourth friend who was inside the bar. A cop tapped on the car, which was idling in the fire lane. Henry, the driver, drove forward and another cop appeared from behind a police vehicle with gun drawn, not giving Henry time to react.
The cop began firing and somewhere in the process was hit by the vehicle, while at least one other cop joined in the shooting. In all, as many as eight shots were fired, three striking Henry while Cox, who was in the passenger seat, took one bullet. This is the account given by Cox and other witnesses at the scene, which contradicts the official police report.
According to police, they were called to the scene because of a fight outside the bar, a fight that Henry and the others in the vehicle were not involved in, Henry drove from where he was parked, hitting one cop who was on the hood of the vehicle and another one with the mirror. In response the cops began firing into the car, killing Henry and wounding Cox.
Witnesses say the vehicle went only 100 feet, was not traveling fast, and only accelerated after shots were fired.
Considering the witnesses’ accounts, it seems that once again the cops are fabricating a story to justify the killing of another young Black male.
Similar to countless other instances of police brutality, a statement from a police official the next morning attempted to sully Henry by stating that the young man, a 20-year-old student and football player at Pace University, had a blood alcohol level of .13.
In the Easton, Mass., community where DJ was from, his father Danroy Henry Sr. stated in response to the report of his son’s blood alcohol level, “If it’s a part of the truth, so be it. But at the end of the day, the central question to us is, does that justify killing our son? … We still fundamentally believe it isn’t.” (www.necn.com, Oct. 23)
He also said, “Rather than coming out and sharing with us information, an anonymous source leaks toxicology reports that we can’t verify.”
The lawyer for Henry’s family said the release of alleged alcohol blood levels was an attempt “to change the conversation away from what police did.”
The toxicology report was released less than nine hours after the shooting.
Facts ‘don’t add up’
Others who were at the bar the morning of the shooting have since come forward. Many claim they were brutalized by the police when the crowd became agitated after witnessing the shooting and seeing Henry handcuffed and placed on the ground without receiving medical care.
Daniel Parker, a football teammate of Henry’s, who spoke at a press conference of 70 fellow football players on Oct. 22, said he tried to help Henry after he was shot. Parker says he was beaten by police, who later charged him and several other teammates with obstruction.
Other people on the scene were charged with numerous misdemeanor counts, and one football teammate of Henry’s was charged with a felony. Many claim to have been assaulted by police who cracked down after people at the scene became angry.
Parker says he told police: “Can I help him? I know CPR. I said, ‘He’s dying. Can I help him? Can I help him?’ And I was cut off.” (Boston Herald, Oct. 22)
Witnesses report that Henry was left unattended for 15 minutes or longer, and when paramedics arrived on the scene, they first attended to the police who were allegedly hit by Henry’s vehicle. Henry lay dying while handcuffed.
A cell phone video of the aftermath of the shooting shows many of the bar patrons distraught, with some yelling at the cops. It also shows a woman in a white dress administering CPR to Henry before paramedics take over.
Henry had never been in trouble; neither had Cox. Friends, coaches, teachers and family members have come to the defense of the two young men and have called into question police accounts of the event. All of them echo a similar refrain: Something about the killing of Henry doesn’t add up.
This latest shooting brings to mind the killing of Sean Bell by New York police in 2006. It is no less a tragedy than Bell’s killing or any other killings by cops of young Black men or any young person, but especially people of color.
Police brutality is rampant, and for every incident that goes reported there are many more that don’t. Police brutality and killings are symptoms of a sick society, one built on the for-profit mode of production, where the state apparatus, of which the cops are part, protect private property relations. Such brutality and repression are also indicators of the pervasive racism and national oppression facing youth of color in the U.S.
The family is demanding an independent investigation. This demand should be supported. Henry did nothing wrong. He merely existed as a young Black male, daring to hang out with his friends. For that he is dead.
Demand justice for Danroy Henry and Brandon Cox! Jail Aaron Hess, Ronald Beckley and all killer cops!
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