The Pace community lost a member when junior Danroy “DJ” Henry was shot by Mount Pleasant and Pleasantville police in Thornwood in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Henry, who is a wide receiver (WR) for the University’s football team, and other Pace students were at Finnegan’s Grill Saturday night, located a few minutes from the Pleasantville campus after celebrating Homecoming events and the football game earlier that day.
According to WABC, a large fight broke out at Finnegan’s which caught the attention of a Pleasantville police officer and called for backup which included police from Mount Pleasant. The officers attempted to calm the situation as a Mt. Pleasant officer approached a parked vehicle which abruptly sped away. Henry was reported to be inside the vehicle along with two unidentified passengers. The unidentified passengers were later revealed to be fellow Pace student Desmond Hinds and Brandon Cox, football player for Stonehill College.
Based on a police report, the car accelerated and struck the Pleasantville officer who landed on the hood of the car. The officer fired shots at the driver – revealed to be Henry, however, the vehicle continued moving towards a Mt. Pleasant officer who also fired at the vehicle. The car subsequently struck a parked police car coming to a stop.
Henry and the two passengers were rushed to Westchester Medical Center where Henry was pronounced dead due to the gunshot wounds while the passengers, who suffered a minor gunshot wound, are recovering and released from the hospital.
“Two police officers were treated at the hospital for broken bones and other injuries,” reported WABC. “Two others were treated for trauma.”
During a press conference held by Mount Pleasant Police Chief Louis Alagno, he referred to the events as “horrendous”, adding, “it’s something that I would hope would never have happened here, but unfortunately it did and we’ll proceed with a very, very thorough investigation.”
Alagno did not announce as to how many shots were fired nor the names of the police officers, only describing them as veterans with at least five years of experience. Alagno did state that the officer who shot at Henry will be put on administrative duty and none of the other officers will face suspension.
“This is still a very preliminary state of our investigation,” Alagno said. “I will not speak to that, whether or not the use of deadly physical force was justified, but in general, a police officer may use deadly physical force when he or another is threatened by the use of deadly physical force.”
On Monday, the names of the police officers who shot Henry were released during another Mt. Pleasant police news conference; they are Pleasantville officer Aaron Hess and Mount Pleasant officer Ronald Beckley.
News of the event quickly traveled to both Pleasantville and Briarcliff campuses, with students asking family and friends to send their thoughts and prayers for Henry’s family. Emergency counseling was available for students within a couple hours of the incident at Howard Johnson Hall in Briarcliff and in the Goldstein Fitness Center in Pleasantville.
Pace students expressed shock to the death stating the characteristics described by police does not match the “DJ” they knew personally. Students expressed confusion on the handling of the events and the role of the police officers as one student asked why the police officers didn’t shoot out the tires instead of Henry and the passenger.
“I don’t even know where to begin in what to say, but I pray that God guides the friends, family and the Pace football team through this painful time,” said Ebony Turner, freshman and media communications student. “This is unbelievable on too many levels.”
Talha Qaiser, senior finance and economics student, and Daniell Miller, senior international marketing student, were at Finnegan’s and witnessed the incident.
“He was double parked and there were only two cops there,” said Qaiser, “The police report stated they told Henry to not move but that’s not true. He was trying to leave and accidently hit a cop. He stopped right away, opened his car door and the cop that was on the hood of his car pulled out his gun and shot at point blank four times and a fifth hit the passenger.”
“Another cop car entered the parking lot after the shooting occurred; DJ was getting out of his car as he got hit and the cops slammed him onto the floor and punched him in the face twice,” added Qaiser. “They handcuffed him even though he wasn’t resisting. They left him there, and people were trying to help and give CPR but the cops didn’t allow people to touch him, nor did the cops try to help. First off it’s against protocol to handcuff someone after they’ve been wounded in a shooting as it blocks blood circulation. A woman did try to give CPR but the cops stopped her stating he was dead, although I saw him breathing. It was after this incident that more cops began to enter the scene. They hesitated to call the ambulance too.”
“I saw him on the ground and it was horrible,” said Miller, who believes the police used unnecessary force and the media is portraying Henry as a violent person, “…when in fact he was the victim. I will never forget that.”
Pace President Stephen J. Friedman issued a statement Sunday regarding the incident.
“The Pace community is deeply saddened by the news that [Henry] was shot and killed by a Pleasantville police officer during an incident at a Thornwood bar early Sunday morning. We extend the deepest sympathies of our community to Mr. Henry’s family and friends. We are working with the police investigation and as appropriate will share more information when it becomes available.”
A vigil in memory of Henry took place Sunday in the Goldstein Fitness Center, gathering over 600 people from the Pace community including alumni and friends of Henry from Iona College.
The vigil featured speeches from the Director for Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Programs, Cornell Craig, who asked for a moment of silence during the candle light vigil on the football field; Prof. Howard Weishaus spoke about Henry as a student in his class. Football players and friends shared stories on how Henry influenced or inspired them to do better.
Henry is the second Pace student death, this semester, due to gunshot wounds after Max Moreno who was found dead three weeks ago in Manhattan.
If you have information regarding the incident, call the National Action Network at 212 – 690 – 3070 or the Office of Public Safety at 914 -773 – 300, ext. 3700.
Originally published in the Oct. 20, 2010 edition of The Paw Print.