Photograph by Dana Smith
[sidebar]DAN AND ANGELLA HENRY, awakened last October by the ringing of their doorbell at 3 a.m., opened the front door of their Easton home to find two police officers on their step. The officers told them that their son had been in an accident. Angella was confused. Her 18-year-old, Kyle, was asleep upstairs in his room. How could he have been in an accident?
One of the cops handed her a piece of paper with the phone number for the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York. She immediately understood that it was her other son, Danroy, the gracefully athletic 20-year-old football player in his junior year at Pace University, that they were talking about. But the Henrys had just seen Danroy — known as DJ — that day, having driven to Pleasantville, New York, to watch him play. Now he was in the hospital? It didn’t make sense.
Angella called the hospital. A woman told her that DJ had been shot. Stunned, Angella kept saying, “Who would shoot him?”
Dan took the phone. “We’re about to take a three-hour drive,” he said to the woman on the other end of the line. “I need to know how serious this is. I need to know if he’s alive.”
At that point, the attending physician came to the phone. DJ was dead, he told Dan. When Dan asked why he’d been shot, the doctor said, “They say he was trying to run over police officers, and they shot him.”
The Henrys were dumbfounded. All through childhood, high school, and now college, DJ had been known as a good-hearted, friendly kid, the kind of person who looked out for others. He was probably trying to help someone, Angella thought in her shock. Maybe Brandon.
Brandon Cox was DJ’s best friend from high school. They’d been teammates on the Oliver Ames High School football team, and had each gone on to play college ball, DJ at Pace and Brandon at Stonehill College. In fact, the game that the Henrys had gone to that day, Pace’s homecoming, was against Stonehill. Brandon’s family, close friends of the Henrys, had come along, and after the game — a 27–0 drubbing by Stonehill — everyone went out for pizza in Pleasantville. Angella and Amber, DJ’s 15-year-old sister, were proudly wearing Pace T-shirts.
DJ had been in high spirits at the restaurant. He teased Amber and boasted about Stonehill’s scouting report for the game, which had called DJ a player to watch out for.
After dinner, Dan and Angella hugged their son goodbye and headed back to Easton. Amber got in the car with Brandon’s mother, stepfather, and twin sisters, fellow sophomores at Oliver Ames and her best friends. The group was going to stay overnight at a hotel in New York. DJ and Brandon then set out for a night with friends.
Something had obviously gone wrong after that, but what? Dan hung up the phone. He and Angella woke Kyle, and the three of them rushed out to their gray Acura SUV and headed back to New York. Kyle wasn’t even wearing shoes.
As they drove, devastated by their private heartbreak, the family had no way of knowing how public their loss was about to become.