Jan. 11, 2011— -- Three months after a college football player in New York was shot and killed by police during an altercation outside a bar, his family said today they intend to take the first steps towards filing a wrongful death suit against police.
Henry, a 20-year-old student at Pace University, was killed in October as he sat in his car with his friends after a night out celebrating a homecoming game in suburban Thornwood, N.Y.
There are differing accounts of what happened. Police say they were responding to an unruly crowd outside a bar, and when officers approached Henry's car parked in a fire lane, and knocked on the window, the college student tried to speed away and struck an officer. Police say a second officer, Aaron Hess of the Mount Pleasant police department which responded to the disturbance, was thrown onto the hood of Henry's car. Police say Hess then fired in self-defense.
Several eyewitnesses say the police overreacted and that Henry was trying to move his car out of the fire lane when the police opened fire.
"The path of the bullet shows that as D.J. tried to move and get out of the vehicle, the officer shot directly at him," said Michael Sussman, an attorney for the Henry family, who disputes the police account of the incident.
Sussman said the Henrys would like to see murder charges filed.
An attorney for Hess, the officer who is accused of firing the shots which killed Henry, could not be reached for comment. Previously, Hess' attorney told the Associated Press that if Henry's son had obeyed "the officers' directions or stopped once he hit Officer Hess, this entire tragedy would have been avoided."
"All indications are that this officer never gave our son time," said Henry's father, Danroy Henry Sr. "Had [the officer] given him time, he would have stopped. He was compliant with one officer's instructions to move. Why he would become non-compliant in a split second is beyond us."
Adding to public outrage the night of Henry's death, some witnesses say he taken out of the car and handcuffed. He was left on the ground while paramedics treated officers for minor, non-life threatening injuries, according to some accounts.
Grand Jury Convened to Examine Henry's Death
A grand jury has been convened to hear evidence in the case. The family has not been allowed to attend the grand jury proceedings, which is standard procedure. But Danroy Henry Sr. said he has been asked to testify.
"We believe the investigation is for the most part complete --that the evidence gathered by this police agency is now in the hands of the district attorney's office and will be presented to the grand jury this week," said Danroy Henry Sr. "We've been concerned from the start that this local police agency has been investigating themselves."
The Westchester County District Attorney's Office, which is conducting investigation, told ABC News it cannot comment on a pending investigation.
Henry was buried Oct. 29, his 21st birthday. He did not have a criminal record. His mother described him as "full of empathy and love," with a tattoo on his wrist that read "family first."Those who knew Henry back in Easton also said the police account of what happened that night outside the bar isn't in line with what they knew of him.
To honor their son, the Henrys have started the D.J. Henry Dream Fund. The organization seeks to empower student athletes who cannot afford their equipment or fees.
"That's something that D.J. would have wanted," Angella Henry said.