WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The lawyer for the parents of a Pace University college football player shot and killed by a police officer in Westchester County released a mountain of evidence in their case on Monday.
The evidence, including surveillance video from a police dashboard camera, shows the chaos and confusion that erupted outside the Thornwood bar after the deadly shooting of Danroy “D.J.” Henry Jr. by Pleasantville police officer Aaron Hess.
EXTRA: Read The Documents
The video shows medical attention being given to the barely-injured police officer, who moments before, fired multiple shots at Henry.
“It’s just hard for us to fathom looking at him on video moments before we know that his life is going to be taken,” Danroy Henry, Sr. said.
It took nearly 15 minutes for anyone to check on Henry. In previous reports, police insisted the student got medical assistance within 5 minutes. Henry’s father says the video shows what he’s known all along.
Henry, 20, of Easton, Mass., was fatally shot by Hess on Oct. 17, 2010 as he drove away from a disturbance that spilled outside of Finnegan’s Grill after Pace’s homecoming game.
Sussman said the evidence shows Henry was traveling about 15 miles an hour as he left a bar disturbance and not at a “high rate of speed” as Hess had claimed. Sussman also said there is evidence contradicting autopsy findings that Henry’s blood alcohol level was above the limit for driving.
A grand jury cleared officer Hess of wrongdoing, concluding Henry tried to run the officer down. The defense says he was told by a different cop to leave. Either way, officer Hess somehow wound up on the hood of the car, shooting through the windshield.
Audio recordings of police messages from the incident have also been released. The recordings start with a report of a fight at the bar and quickly escalate in tone as officers call in.
At one point, there are repeated shouts of “Shots fire! Officer Down!”
The only shots had been fired by officers.
Officer Hess is suing Briarcliff Wines and Liquors, saying Henry got drunk there before going to the bar.
Henry’s family and defense attorney maintain he was sober and plan to use the surveillance video in a civil suit to prove Hess caused Henry’s death and possibly that he could have been saved.
“Clearly it was delayed. You have to reach the view that had he received medical attention, it could’ve saved his life. We have not yet reached that view,” Sussman said.
Sussman said in addition to the civil suit, significant criminal charges are still possible through an investigation by the Department of Justice on criminal civil rights charges.
Meanwhile, Henry’s father has released a police document indicating Hess could easily have been shot himself by another officer.
The police report says Mount Pleasant Officer Ronald Beckley told a lieutenant a few hours after the shooting that he feared he had shot Hess.
Hess has acknowledged that he shot Henry through the windshield of Henry’s car. He says he was hit by the car and thrown onto the hood and had to fire to stop the car.
Beckley also fired at the car but did not hit anyone. The police report suggests he was aiming at Hess, not knowing he was a fellow officer.
In an email message, Henry Sr. said the document shows Beckley perceived Hess, not Henry, as the threat.
“What actually gets Beckley’s attention is a shooter, not a reckless driver running people over who had to be gunned down to stop the threat,” the father said.
Hess’ attorney did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
According to the document, Beckley told the lieutenant he had fired his gun during the disturbance. He said he heard gunshots nearby and saw a car speeding toward him.
Beckley “saw a person who was dressed in dark clothing on the hood of the vehicle,” and believed that person was firing the shots, the lieutenant wrote.
“Officer Beckley stated that he believed he was going to be killed by the vehicle and that he drew his weapon and fired at the car,” the report said. “He believed he had shot the person on the hood of the vehicle. It wasn’t until after the car stopped that he realized the person he thought he had shot at was police Officer Aaron Hess.”
The lieutenant wrote that when Beckley learned Hess had been injured by the car but not been shot, he “began to cry attempting to hold back his emotions.”
The report does not mention Henry.
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