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On 2-Year Anniversary, DJ Henry's Mother Reflects

Pace University football player Danroy "DJ" Henry was shot to death in Thornwood two years ago.

For Angella Henry, things have not gotten easier in the two years since her son's death.

The mother of Danroy "DJ" Henry relives her son's death each and every day.

"Some days have been worse as some information has been revealed about Oct. 17, 2010 and we find out how cruel-fully he was treated it actually hurts even more," she said. "I don’t think time makes things any easier."

Henry will spend today mourning the loss of her son, who was shot and killed by police officer Aaron Hess on Oct. 17, 2010 while driving away from a Thornwood Shopping Center bar. The two years since that night have included vigils, legal battles, widespread media attention and differing accounts from a slew of witnesses.

Pleasantville Police Officer Aaron Hess fired the deadly shots through Henry's windshield, claiming he shot in self-defense with a reckless vehicle heading towards him. A Westchester Country Grand Jury did not indict him last year, prompting the Henry family to file a wrongful death suit against the Pleasantville Police Department. The Department of Justice also began to investigate the matter.

While the process has been a struggle day in and day out, Henry said the family will continue to fight to reveal what they call a series of inaccuracies in stories involving their son's death.

Earlier this month, the second officer to fire his gun that night—Ronald Beckley of the Mount Pleasant Police Department—revealed in his deposition to Henry family lawyer Michael Sussman 

Hess' attorney Brian Sokoloff urged that there are no premature conclusions and criticized Sussman's decision to release the depositions to the public before they were all complete.

For Angella Henry, however, the revelation was something she and her family had been certain of all along.

"I think the new information coming out from the depositions has us a lot closer to revealing the truth to the world," she said. "We knew what happened that night and it was just a matter of us having evidence to support it. Now that the depositions have come out and Ronald Beckley has come out with what he saw that night. It supports what we’ve been saying since the beginning."

New information from Beckley's deposition and the depositions of Hess and others caused the Henrys to file new lawsuits last week  against Mount Pleasant and Police Officers Ronald Gagnon (of Mount Pleasant) and Kevin Gilmartin (of Pleasantville) for allegedly mistreating Henry after he was shot by not calling for medical attention or attending to him.

With the process far from over, Angella Henry is happy her family's cause has generated strong support throughout the country. A Facebook group titled "Justice for DJ Henry" has more than 6,800 followers; rapper 'Lil Wayne wears an "I am DJ Henry” bracelet; and rappers Jay Z and Kanye West dedicated a song to the slain college student.

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Additionally, the family regularly receives messages of support, Henry said.

"We’ve been overwhelmed by the support of complete strangers who want to help us in any way they can," she said. "They donate their time; they donate funds; they donate their energy. It’s just been overwhelming to us to see the amount of outpouring and love. We truly appreciate every bit of it. It really helps us get through those days when they’re extremely difficult. There are people out there praying for us. I still get cards. I got a card yesterday and I got a card today just from people out there supporting us."

The Henry family asked their supporters to spend the two-year anniversary of DJ Henry's death as a "Day of Service.”

"We would just like people to honor our son’s memory by helping others," Henry said. "However they can reach out to other people and however they can be helpful to other people, we’re just asking them to use it as a day of service and not let it be a somber day, but reach out to other people and let them know about our son and the life that he lived and the fight that we’re in. We just want people to spread some sort of love the way he spread love when he was here—we want them to spread it by serving others."

The Henrys have carried that same sentiment to the DJ Dream Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing funding to underprivileged young athletes.

Both Angella and DJ's father, Danroy Sr., sit on the Board of Directors for the fund, which began at the beginning of 2011. According to Angella, more than 500 children have been helped since its inception.

The second annual 5K road race will be held at Easton Middle School in DJ Henry's hometown on Saturday.

"The road race is this Saturday and we’re expecting greater numbers than last year," she said." We had over 300 runners and we’re expecting even more this year. To see the way we can touch children through the name of DJ Henry has just been a gift to us and it’s a way we can continue to keep his name and legacy alive.

"I got a 'thank you' today from a mom who said 'you’ve made my day by providing a scholarship for my son to play basketball.' Those are the things that bring us joy."

The Dream Fund has provided a glimpse of light in what has been a difficult two years for the Henrys.

As for their legal battles, the family shows no signs of slowing down.

"We’re prepared for however long it takes," Henry said. "We’re prepared to do whatever we have to do until all of the rocks have been turned over and all of the information has been revealed."


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