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Family of Pace Student D.J. Henry Plans $120M Suit

By Jim Fitzgerald, Associated Press
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Danroy "D.J." Henry (Henry family photo)

Danroy “D.J.” Henry (Henry family photo)

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) – The parents of a college football player who was shot dead in his car by police announced Tuesday that they plan a $120 million lawsuit against the suburban towns whose officers were involved.

They also have decided to cooperate with the grand jury investigating the case.

Family lawyer Michael Sussman said the lawsuit over the death of Danroy Henry Jr. would probably be filed in federal court this spring against the town of Mount Pleasant and the village of Pleasantville, just north of New York City. A notice of claim, required before suing, was filed Tuesday in each jurisdiction, he said.

Telephone calls to Pleasantville Administrator Patti Dwyer and Mount Pleasant Supervisor Joan Maybury were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Henry, a 20-year-old Pace University student, was killed Oct. 17 after officers fired at his car as he drove through the parking lot of a shopping center in the New York City suburb Thornwood, near the Pace campus. Police had been called to a disturbance that spilled out of a bar in the shopping center.

Witness accounts of the shooting have differed sharply, and a Westchester County grand jury is investigating. Police have said that Henry sped away and hit Pleasantville Officer Aaron Hess, who has acknowledged shooting at Henry through Henry’s windshield. A Mount Pleasant officer also fired at the car.

Sussman has alleged that Hess committed murder, but Hess’ lawyer said he was thrown onto the hood of the car by the impact and had no alternative but to shoot.

Autopsy results revealed that Henry had a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit for driving. Sussman has disputed that finding.

The notice of claim alleges that the municipalities were negligent in hiring and training officers and the officers were negligent in their use of deadly force.

Amateur video of the aftermath of the shooting reveals “absolute mayhem,” Sussman said. There was “an obvious lack of supervision … that relates to a lack of training,” he said.

The $120 million figure in the notice of claim, he said, reflects “the family’s valuation to the extent they can give any monetary valuation” of their son’s worth.

Henry’s father, Danroy Henry, has been asked to testify before the grand jury and has agreed, Sussman said. “He has things to say” about his son’s nature and character, the lawyer said.

Sussman said he and other lawyers in the case met last month with then-Gov. David Paterson to seek a special prosecutor. But the governor felt the Westchester County grand jury investigation would be “a serious enough pursuit of justice,” Sussman said.

Sussman has said he doubts the ability of the Westchester district attorney’s office to impartially lead the investigation. But on Tuesday he encouraged “all people with knowledge of the situation” to cooperate with the grand jury.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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