DA: Police Cars’ Video Idle When NY Student Killed
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Video cameras in squad cars were “not operational” when police officers shot and killed a college football player during a disturbance outside a bar, prosecutors said in a document released Tuesday.
The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office filed the document in objecting to a request from a lawyer for the student’s family to view audio and video recordings of the shooting.
Danroy Henry, 20, a Pace University student from Easton, Mass., was killed Oct. 17 as he drove his Nissan near the bar in Thornwood near the university campus.
Police have said Henry sped away and hit two officers after another officer knocked on his car window.
Michael Sussman, a lawyer for Henry’s family, claims accounts from witnesses, including passengers in the car, contradict the police account.
The prosecution argues that releasing material to Sussman might mean making it public and would interfere with a pending grand jury investigation, for which subpoenas have already been issued.
“As to video recordings made by the Mount Pleasant and Pleasantville police departments, Mount Pleasant has no video cameras installed in their patrol cars, while Pleasantville does, but an examination of the hard drives of those cameras reveals they were not operational during the shooting incident,” the court document says. It does not say why the cameras were not operating.
A message left for Pleasantville police Chief Anthony Chiarlitti was not immediately returned.
The court document also says that most surveillance video from stores in the same shopping center as the bar were not useful. But video from the bar itself, Finnegan’s Grill, and a Citibank branch show images from outside, it says. No details were provided.
The document says Sussman was wrong when he told reporters last week that traces of gunpowder were gone from the car Henry was driving when he was shot. Gunshot residue tests have not been completed, it said.
“The probable impact of such false and misleading publicity by interested parties is to interfere with the grand jury’s unbiased investigation,” the court document says.
In a response released Tuesday night, Sussman said that despite many conversations and letters, the district attorney’s office has never “made any statement questioning or discouraging my public comments.” He insisted he was correct about the gunpowder.
Sussman has suggested the district attorney should not be leading the investigation because of ties to the police departments involved. He has asked the Department of Justice to step in and is seeking a determination of whether racial bias or stereotyping played a role. The officers who fired at Henry’s car — Pleasantville Officer Aaron Hess and Mount Pleasant Officer Ronald Beckley — are white; Henry was black.
Sussman said he would be willing to keep secret any material he is given. If he eventually files a lawsuit for the family, he said, he would be willing to “do it under seal not to compromise criminal proceedings.”
He said Henry’s parents, Danroy Henry Sr. and Angella Henry, “need to see this information. They want to hear the tapes, they want to see whatever video exists because they need to know how their son died and why.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)