WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A grand jury determined Monday that a police officer did not commit a crime when he shot and killed a college football player through the windshield of the student’s car.
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said jurors found “no reasonable cause for an indictment” in the death of 20-year-old Danroy “D.J.” Henry Jr., of Easton, Mass.
Henry’s father, Danroy Henry Sr., who had demanded a murder indictment against the officer , said, “There are no words to express our disappointment.” He repeated his call for a federal investigation.
“What happened was murder,” Henry told CBS 2′s Dave Carlin.
D.J. Henry, a Pace University student, was killed Oct. 17 when officers fired at his car as he drove away from a bar in Thornwood, just north of New York City.
Police had been called to a disturbance that spilled out of the bar after the Pace homecoming game.
Henry, who had been in the bar earlier, was parked in his Nissan in a fire lane when a policeman knocked on the driver’s-side window. Autopsy results showed an alcohol level in Henry’s blood that exceeded the legal limit for driving, but his family insists he was not drunk.
Police said Henry sped off; his family said he moved away at parking lot speed, believing the officer was instructing him to move.
Henry’s car hit Officer Aaron Hess, of the Pleasantville police force, and Hess ended up on the hood of the Nissan, firing through the windshield.
Through his lawyer, Hess acknowledged that he shot at Henry. He said he was in fear for his life and had no choice.
But Henry’s parents said they felt Hess should be charged with murder. Henry family lawyer Michael Sussman said the shooting was “nothing short of intentional murder.”
Sussman said the police’s claims have never been challenged.
“This man jumps in front of a car. I’ve heard never a credible, reasonable explanation. This wasn’t the fleeing felon. DJ Henry wasn’t running away from some crime he committed and nobody had any belief that he was,” he told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon.
1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon speaks with the Henry family’s lawyer Michael Sussman
Another officer also shot at the car but apparently hit the hood.
The family said it will continue to seek to the truth and wants the United States Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to the case. They said the Westchester District Attorney should have never been allowed to investigate its own law enforcement officers.
“In any case of a police shooting someone other than the district attorney of that county who works intimately with local police agencies. But she cannot also investigate those same police agencies with integrity,” Sussman told Carlin.
The Department of Justice said it would monitor the case. It would review the evidence to determine whether there were any civil rights crimes, New York U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Ellen Davis said Monday night.
Danroy Henry Sr. testified before the grand jury on Jan. 28. Afterward, he said, “I’m having now to talk about how my son died and not about how he lived, and that’s what’s really difficult about it.”
He and his wife appeared on national television several times, insisting they wanted only “the absolute truth.”
D.J. Henry was black; the police officers involved were white. Henry’s parents refused to blame the shooting on racial prejudice, saying they did not know what was in Hess’ heart.
DiFiore said Hess testified “without the protection of immunity from prosecution.” She said there were 85 witnesses in all before the month-long grand jury session.
“We never believed these guys were pursuing an indictment,” Henry said.
In the chaos that followed the shooting, which was widely seen from amateur video, four of Henry’s classmates were arrested on various charges including obstruction. Those charges are pending.
The Henry family is planning a $120 million lawsuit against Pleasantville and Mount Pleasant. Danroy Henry Sr. said Monday that the grand jury’s finding was “not designed to tell the truth but rather to minimize the civil and criminal liability of agencies involved.”
On Monday night at Pace University, where D.J. Henry was a junior, the grand jury decision had some students feeling angry and suspicious.
“People wonder if they can trust cops anymore,” student India Burgess told Carlin.
Pace released the following statement: “We understand that the decision will disappoint many students. … If the Justice Department determines that a civil rights investigation is appropriate, we will provide our full support.”
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)