On the eve of the one year anniversary of the shooting death of student Danroy "DJ" Henry, family, friends and members of the community gathered on the steps of the Federal U.S. District Courthouse in White Plains to announce several lawsuits as they continue the fight for justice in Henry’s death.
Yves Delpeche, Joseph Garcia, Joseph Romanick and Daniel Parker—Henry’s peers who were allegedly beat up and tasered as they tried to help him that night—were later . The by the Westchester County District Attorney's office.
“We stand here today on the one year anniversary of [Henry's] death,” said Bonita Zelman, an attorney for the students. “His life was stolen from him by police bullets…We will not stop. We have the evidence that was covered up.[Henry's peers] are not here for a settlement…You and your children are not safe as long as we have a District Attorney who allows police brutality.”
Zelman filed a total of seven lawsuits against the Westchester County justice system on Friday on behalf of her clients including suits against: Westchester County Public Safety, Westchester Police commissioner George Longworth, the Village of Pleasantville, and the Town of Mt. Pleasant police chief, the former police chef of Pleasantville and several officers involved in the case.
Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer said he has not yet seen the related paperwork.
"I will reserve comment until I have read the suits," he said in an email.
“It’s been tough,” said a self-described close friend of Henry’s who wished to remain anonymous. “I think the cops are looking at criminally negligent homicide charges.”
While the four are suing for punitive and compensatory damages, they are also looking for a change in the way force and firearms are used by police in Westchester County. They have requested a court order and a monitor from the Federal Court to make sure that the suggestions put forth in the March 2008 Task Force Report are implemented.
“If Westchester won’t change the way they train police officers to use force then we will force them to,” said Zelman.
“The DA's office has not prosecuted one case of police brutality,” said Damon K. Jones, president of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. “The politicians don’t want to address this issue. It’s a travesty. Some politicians don’t want to change anything until they see dollar signs.”
A year after that fateful night, classmates and friends of Henry are still shaken. One of those who was deeply affected by the Oct. 17, 2010 shooting is Desmond Hines, who said he was pulled out of the backseat of Henry’s car by police and had a gun placed to his head. The ordeal left him with a concussions and lasting emotional scars, according to his family.
“In my opinion Des isn’t himself,” said Desmond Hines Sr., his father. “I don’t think he will ever get over this.”
Added Zelman, “Desmond tells me he replays this incident 15-20 times a day. All are in treatment for post traumatic stress disorder.”
Joseph Romanick, the pace quarterback who was thrown to the ground trying to help Henry that night, might be facing surgery that could possibly end his football career.
“He tried to go forward, but was tackled by five to six police officers,” said Zelman. “He already had a football injury and his arm was in a sling. They threw him down on his injured arm.”
Said Anthony Miranda, executive chairman of the National Latino Officers Association of America, "The lawsuit won’t make them whole, but they believe in the system and they believe in the process and they believe they will get justice in federal court."