TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- The attorney for four Pace University football players and two witnesses to the death of Danroy Henry Jr. today accused Westchester County authorities of a "coverup'' and demanded that the New York attorney general or the US Department of Justice take over the investigation into the fatal police shooting.
As anger over Henry's death deepened, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press today that Henry's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit when he was shot. The person told the AP that the level measured for Danroy Henry during his autopsy was 0.13. The legal limit for driving in New York is 0.08.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the autopsy report has not been officially released.
In a fiery press conference attended by most of the Pace football team, leaders of minority police organizations, and New York politicians, attorney Bonita Zelman said police were wrong to shoot Henry and were wrong to arrest his teammates when they tried to help him early on Oct. 17.
Zelman also rebutted Mount Pleasant Police Chief Louis Alagno who said earlier today that Henry got medical aid three to five minutes after he was shot. Zelman said, based on her investigation, when the first ambulance arrived on the scene, Henry was lying in the parking lot in handcuffs.
"The first ambulance did not render medical treatment to DJ,'' she said.
She also said that one Pace student who was friends with Henry and who was at the shooting scene tried to get to his friend and provide CPR after he was shot. Officers on the scene, she said, put a gun in his ribs and told him he would be shot if he did not back away form Henry.
Zelman lashed out Alagno, who has said four of his detectives, along with the New York State Police and the Westchester County district attorney's office, are investigating the shooting.
"We know that this investigation under Chief Alagno – despite what he is telling the media – is a mere coverup for the misconduct and brutality of the police,'' Zelman said.
"Westchester County will not cover up for the brutality and shooting of DJ Henry,'' she said. "Westchester County will not get away with covering up and trying to ruin the lives of those football players who came forward to try to save his life.''
In a brief telephone interview with the Globe this afternoon, Alagno said he did not listen to Zelman's press conference. He declined to address her claim that he was engaged in a coverup nor would he react to suggestions by leaders of minority police organizations that race was a factor in the shooting.
"My responsibility is to ensure that there’s a thorough and impartial investigation into the events on Oct. 17 and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure that happens,'' he told the Globe.
He also said that he believes Henry was given medical care within three to five minutes after he was shot. “I’m fairly confident this is an accurate picture of what happened,'' he said.
At his press conference today, Alagno said police got the first report of a disturbance in the bar at 1:19 a.m. Sunday, and the first report of a shooting was at 1:25 a.m. He said between 1:28 a.m. and 1:30 a.m., more than one officer gave direct care to Henry while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
He said officers noted Henry's "grave condition," retrieved oxygen and a defibrillator, and took over CPR from a civilian woman who had stepped in to help.
By 1:35 a.m., Henry was loaded on a stretcher and wheeled to an ambulance, Alagno said, The Associated Press reported. He said that an autopsy found Henry's death came from the gunshot fired at him by police.
Alagno spoke out one day after a police union issued a statement supporting one of the officers involved, Pleasantville Police Officer Aaron Hess. The union said Hess shot into the passenger compartment of Henry's only after Henry ignored a hand signal and ignored shouted orders to stop.
Henry's parents, Danroy Henry Sr. and Angela Henry, appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" show, this morning. "We need to have the absolute truth,'' about what happened, said the father.
He added, "We owe it or our son. We owe it to his legacy. As grieving parents, and with his brother and sister, we need to somehow come to terms with this. We can't do that without knowing absolutely 100 percent what happened to our son. Why he was killed.''
Hess, according to the statement by his union, had no choice but to shoot. Hess was among the police who responded to the fight at a bar called Finnegan's. Henry, his friend Brandon Cox of Easton, and Pace teammate Desmond Hinds were in the vehicle with him.
"At that time, the operator of one vehicle now identified as Danroy Henry ignored instructions from a Mt. Pleasant police officer to stop and instead drove forward toward Officer Hess who was in the path of the vehicle. Officer Hess raised his hand signaling the vehicle to stop, fully expecting the driver to comply," the union said in a statement.
The union added, "Inexplicably, the driver did not comply and two officers were struck by the vehicle. Officer Hess was thrown onto the hood of the vehicle. The operator continued to ignore verbal comments to stop, the vehicle continued forward with Officer Hess clinging to the hood of the vehicle.''
"Fearing for his life and the life of others, Officer Hess fired his weapon to stop the threat that was presented by the vehicle and the actions of the driver. Mt. Pleasant Police Officer Ronald Beckley also fired his weapon at the scene. The vehicle struck two police vehicles. Officer Hess was thrown to the ground,'' the union said.
Hess underwent surgery for a knee injury after the incident, the union said.
In his law enforcement career, Hess has never been accused of using excessive force or disciplined for misconduct, the union said. Until Oct. 17, Hess never used his firearm while on duty, the union said.
In the statement by the Police Benevolent Association of Pleasantville N.Y., the union said Hess served with the US Marines for four years between 1996 and 2000 and earned several "meritorious service citations.'' He participated in Operation Desert Fox during his service, the union said.
He joined the New York City police in 2000 but left in 2003 to join the Pleasantville police, his hometown department. He has been the department's K-9 officer since 2005, the union said.
The union said the ongoing investigation by police and prosecutors will reach the conclusion that Hess acted both as he was trained to do and within the law. "It will be shown that Officer Hess acted lawfully and appropriately in all respects,'' the union said.
In their appearance on "Good Morning America," Henry's parents stressed that they are not attacking law enforcement in general, nor are they alleging racial motives by the officers involved. Henry was African-American as were the two passengers.
They also said they were with their son a few hours before he was shot to death. "We knew he would be going out with his friends,'' Angela Henry said on the show."We told him to have fun and be safe.''
The Henrys had gathered Oct. 16 in New York to watch the son play for Pace against Stonehill College. Afterward, the young man went out with his childhood friend, Brandon Cox, who is on the Stonehill team.
Henry's parents said they want to know why their son was shot and why it appeared he was not given needed emergency medical care.
Alagno has said some people interviewed by the media falsely claimed to be at the shooting scene.
Angela Henry today wore the orange jersey her son wore while playing for the Oliver Ames High School in Easton. "Our son was filled with love and empathy for people,'' she said. "He put his family first.''
Their attorney, Michael Sussman, appeared with the couple during the interview. He said his firm will be in a New York courtroom today seeking a court order requiring police and prosecutors to preserve the evidence found during their investigation.
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