Family, Interrupted

By Katherine Ozment | Boston Magazine |

The scene is not the circus it was in the first weeks after DJ died. This is a smaller affair, attended by local news and radio. Dan walks up to the microphone and begins speaking. “This has been a hard six months for us,” he says, his family huddled behind him, arms entwined. He tells the reporters that the family has officially begun the process of suing Officer Aaron Hess and the Village of Pleasantville for $120 million. “This opens up to subpoena evidence the audio, video, and personnel files,” he says. “The one thing we want most we can’t have. We will never have our son back. But this gives us subpoena power to gain access to information we have been denied.”

Channel 5’s Barreda soon strides in, wearing a long, dark coat and full makeup. “How do you get through the day?” she asks.

“Through prayer and through our faith,” Angella replies.

The talk returns to the lawsuit, which Amber explains this way: “We can’t have Danny back, so we need something to conclude it. We need the truth.”

Kyle, who is tall with a deep voice and an easygoing demeanor, adds, “These people murdered an innocent, great person. I’ve dedicated my life to knowing the truth, to gaining some sort of peace.”

The press conference ends and Dan and Angella speak to a few stragglers, then go inside. In the dining room, an Associated Press photographer is snapping shots of the framed pictures of DJ that Angella has assembled on the table.

“I don’t think we have a choice,” Angella says of all the media appearances. “If what we have to do is stand up in front of the world, we will do whatever we have to. What can you do but keep fighting?”

A MONTH LATER, on a sunny afternoon in May, Angella answers the door in jeans and a polo shirt. She has just returned from Staples with plastic bins for the DJ Henry T-shirts that were designed by Boston’s Johnny Cupcakes. The shirts will be sold to raise money for the DJ Dream Fund, a nonprofit the family created to provide sporting equip-ment, summer-camp scholarships, even health-club memberships to children in need.

On the kitchen table is a wicker basket filled with unread mail. Beside it is a vase of fresh irises and daffodils, sent anonymously that morning. “We get things every day from people all over the country,” Angella says. Amber receives teddy bears with DJ’s number 12 on them. On Easter morning, Angella’s aunt and uncle found a bunch of yellow tulips beside the post bearing DJ’s photo that they keep on their front lawn.

Strangers often show up on their doorstep or park outside their house. Sometimes it’s a reporter coming to get their reaction to some turn of events — like Hess being named Officer of the Year. Other times it’s someone who’s experienced a similar loss. The Henrys have found it increasingly difficult to balance their need to keep public attention on DJ’s shooting with their need for privacy. Plus, some of the offerings they get are disturbing. Dan now opens the mail and tosses out the “bad ones,” which he doesn’t let Angella read. The family is considering security cameras for the house.

Amber is sitting at the table when her mother comes to stand over her and, in that universal habit of mothers everywhere, starts picking at her forehead. Amber shoos her away. “He was the only one of my kids who would let me groom him and pick at him,” Angella says of DJ. “He loved it.”

Amber playfully rolls her eyes, and Angella begins to talk about her frustration with the Westchester County district attorney, who is still refusing to give up the surveillance tapes, even with the family’s civil trial looming.

  • 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.