VALHALLA, NY (AP / CBSNewYork) – A judge dropped all charges Thursday against four college football players who were arrested after a teammate was killed by a police officer outside a bar.
The four Pace University students were arrested Oct. 17 in the chaos that followed the shooting of 20-year-old Danroy Henry in Thornwood, N.Y.
The players’ attorney, Bonita Zelman, called it “a great victory.” She said they planned to sue for “brutality, false arrest, malicious prosecution and violations of their civil, constitutional and human rights.”
Last month, a grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot Henry. Two weeks ago, prosecutors moved to dismiss various charges of disorderly conduct, obstruction and criminal mischief against the teammates.
“I feel relieved. I feel free,” said Joseph Garcia, of Floral Park, N.Y., who graduated in December and had been charged with obstruction. “I don’t have to worry about a criminal record.”
Zelman spoke with 1010 WINS on Thursday and said her legal team has a videotape “that shows police running around brandishing guns at innocent students.” She said the video also shows there was no unruly crowd as police have claimed.
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Joseph Romanick, of Slidell, La., who had been charged with felony criminal mischief, said, “Nothing will take away from the loss that we felt from D.J.”
The other players are Yves Delpeche, of Brooklyn, and Daniel Parker, of Lauderhill, Fla.
In court papers supporting the dropping of charges, prosecutors wrote that the defendants’ actions resulted from “impulsive and youthful visceral reactions to the sudden, unexpected shooting of their friend.”
Prosecutors added: “The fact their conduct caused no physical injury to anyone (civilian or police) provide additional compelling factors supporting a discretionary dismissal.”
Henry, of Easton, Mass., was shot as he drove away from the bar in Thornwood, just north of New York City.
The U.S. Department of Justice said it would review the case for possible civil rights crimes. Henry was black; the police officers involved were white.
The motion to dismiss recounted the chaos surrounding the shooting and said that three teammates tried to rush past officers who were guarding the crime scene where Henry lay dying on the ground.
One of the defendants, according to court papers, yelled to the officers, “Come on, shoot me too.”
Romanick was accused of breaking the glass door of a nearby bagel store. The court papers said it can be inferred that Romanick was “angry, frustrated and distraught at the shooting of his friend.”
Police responding to a 911 call about a fight outside Finnegan’s Grill in the Thornwood Town Center came upon Henry, who had been in the bar, and was in a car parked in a fire lane. A police officer knocked on the driver’s window, and the car was put into gear.
The vehicle hit Pleasantville Officer Aaron Hess, who opened fire through the windshield. Henry was killed, and Hess was seriously injured.
Zelman said she aims to “get compensation in the form of money damages” and get police she claims committed “acts of brutality” off of the force.
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