The Pace University football player would have turned 21 years old today, a fact that his father, Danroy Henry Sr., spoke of at the close of the three-hour ceremony held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in South Boston this afternoon.
"We know that even though he didn't want to have a big 21st birthday, he's going to anyway," said the elder Henry.
His mother told the celebrants, who included people from his childhood and from his life at Pace, that his death has not permanently severed Henry from his friends.
"We will continue to talk about him in the present tense because he's here with us," said Angella Henry.
Pace has set up a website for the college community to post remembrances of Henry.
The celebration was attended by Henry's two siblings, and by people who knew Henry from his time at the Oliver Ames High School in Easton and at Pace, where he was a member of the university's football team.
Henry's sister, Amber, read an essay she wrote two years ago, while she was in the eighth grade, about how her brother was her hero. Henry's brother, Kyle, said that after his brother's death he got a matching tattoo – Danroy had the phrase 'family first'' – on his wrist.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for Henry's family said today he plans to match the energy put into the memorial with what he will put into the investigation into the shooting.
"Today the depth of our collective sadness must be matched by the strength of our resolve to fully determine what happened,” New York civil rights attorney Michael Sussman said at a press conference this morning. “The strength of our sadness is going to be measured by the passionate energy we exhibit to find the truth.”
Sussman added, “Today is a day of profound grief for a very special family.”
Henry and childhood friend Brandon Cox, 20, were shot in Mount Pleasant, NY, just after 1 a.m. on Oct. 17 while in a car that Henry was driving outside a bar.
Police said Henry struck a police officer with the vehicle, but witnesses have said that he was simply moving his car, and that the officer jumped in front of the vehicle in an overreaction to a fight in the parking lot. Henry was not involved in the fight.
Sussman said today that he continues to investigate the shooting, and again called on New York police to appoint an independent agency to review the incident. He has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct its own probe. The agency has said it will monitor the probe.
Also today, Sussman said a review of ballistics evidence, analyzing the sequence of the bullets that hit the car, indicates that the first shots were fired from the side of the car and then from the front. That would contradict reports that the car was heading toward the police officer before the officer fired.
“The first shot was fired by an individual who was not in harm’s way, who was not in the path of the vehicle but off to the side,” Sussman said.
Sussman has sought a court order allowing him access to surveillance footage of the strip mall where the shooting occurred. The footage is in police possession.
The Associated Press has reported, citing an anonymous source, that a blood alcohol test showed Henry was legally drunk when he allegedly drove at the officers, striking two of them. Sussman said he has not received any results yet, and blasted law enforcement for releasing the information to distract media attention from the shooting. He said the leak shows why an independent investigation is needed.
Sussman said he will have blood samples reviewed independently of police. He also said the leaked results, which are not official until a complete autopsy can be performed, contradict witness testimony that Henry was dancing before the shooting and that he had refused drinks because he was the designated driver.
In a related development, Harvard Law School professor Charles J. Ogletree confirmed Thursday that he was taking over as lead counsel for Cox and his family. He said a friend of the Cox family contacted him and he agreed to take the case because he has worked on similar matters involving police shootings.
Henry's remains have been cremated.
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