Family, Interrupted

By Katherine Ozment | Boston Magazine |

Their frustrations were mounting. According to the Henrys and their attorney, their request to have a representative present at DJ’s autopsy was ignored. They also say the ballistics expert they hired to examine the gunpowder residue on their son’s car arrived to find that the Altima had already been wiped down. Then someone leaked the news that DJ’s autopsy revealed a blood-alcohol level of .13, well above the .08 limit to drive. Dan and Angella dispute that finding — insisting that witnesses had DJ drinking just half a cocktail the entire night — but the damage was done. Some commentators characterized DJ as a drunk driver.

The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office had been investigating the incident, and in February, four months after the shooting, a Westchester grand jury decided against indicting officers Aaron Hess and Ronald Beckley. Hours later, the U.S. Department of Justice took on the case as a possible civil rights violation.

Charges against the four Pace University football players arrested the night of DJ’s death were later dropped. The players are now pursuing a civil case against the officers involved in their arrest.

In April, the Pleasantville Police Benevolent Association honored Hess with its Officer of the Year award.

ON A CHILLY APRIL MORNING, six months after their son was killed, Dan and Angella Henry prepare to speak to reporters once again. TV trucks and cars line their street, and camera and sound guys are setting up equipment.
Dan is in the kitchen, wearing a dark gray button-down shirt and crisp dark-wash jeans. He takes a phone call, and returns to tell Angella that Amalia Barreda from Channel 5 is stuck in traffic.

“Can we wait?” he asks.

“It’s just so cold outside,” Angella says. “I feel bad for everyone waiting out there.”  

They decide to give Barreda a few extra minutes, then get going.

The Henrys have become increasingly comfortable with the press as they’ve sought to combat negative portrayals of DJ in the media and in online commentary. That afternoon, they will appear on NECN’s Broadside: The News with Jim Braude and then The Emily Rooney Show on WGBH. They’ve also been on CNN and the Oprah Winfrey Network, and all the local media outlets have already been out to the house.

“It’s very hard,” Dan says with a tired look when asked what it’s like to grieve so publicly. “But it’s necessary. Even on the first morning, my inclination was not to say anything. But we couldn’t allow them to disparage our son’s character.”

Amber and Kyle appear from upstairs. The four stand together for a moment in the kitchen, then move to the front door. Percy, the family’s Welsh terrier, thinks this means he’s going for a walk and starts leaping at the door. Angella picks him up and carries him to a back room. Then the Henrys file out to meet the cameras.

  • maureen

    Thank you Katherine Ozment for this wonderful piece, you did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of this family.

  • Snowmama

    My heart continues to break for this family, and shocking turn of events in the lives of DJ and the wonderful young college students and patrons trying to save his life. I am furious that the actions of one cop can so alter the lives of so many kids. It’s disgraceful also how the state of NY has treated this grieving family, absolutely disgraceful!

  • J

    …but I pray you find peace in knowing that this was not just about DJ but for all the families you have experienced loss of their children in the hands of that silent “blue” wall.

  • Patricia

    This was a great article and portrayal of the Henry family. Our prayers continue to go out for them as they heal from this tragedy. I pray God grants them the peace they desire in knowing the absolute truth. Blessings all of them.

  • nora

    Dan and Angella Henry have shown remarkable strength, grace and restraint during this tragedy. It is difficult to grieve privately yet keep this story in the public eye in an effort to find the truth

  • Lori

    Thank you Boston Magazine for this piece. So well done, and so important. The horrible wrong can’t be undone, but major media staying focused on this story may lead to justice and some degree of peace and closure for the Henry family. They need our help. Thank you for this story.