Witness speaks in D.J. Henry death

Updated: October 21, 2010, 8:36 PM ET
Associated Press

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- A college student who was at the scene when a schoolmate was shot to death by police said Thursday that the killing was "over the top, aggressive and unnecessary," joining a chorus of witnesses who say police mishandled the situation.

"None of it made sense to me," said Robert Coulombe, a Pace University senior.

Danroy "D.J." Henry, of Easton, Mass., was killed early Sunday after police were called to a disturbance that spilled out of a Thornwood, N.Y., bar.

Police have said that Henry, a 20-year-old Pace football player, sped away and hit two officers after a policeman knocked on his car window.

His family's attorney said Wednesday that eyewitnesses contradicted that account and said paramedics ignored Henry, handcuffed and dying, to attend to injured officers.

Coulombe, who shot video of the chaotic scene after the shooting, said he was behind Henry's car and did not see the shooting, but heard the shots after he saw Henry pull away "as if he was being asked to leave the fire lane."

He said he could not estimate the speed of Henry's car but said Henry drove only about 100 feet and couldn't have been going dangerously fast before his car crashed into a parked police cruiser.

"They didn't give him a chance to pull over," Coulombe said. "They could have pursued him in their vehicles."

Coulombe said he felt police overreacted.

"They unnecessarily shot someone," he said.

A union representing one of the officers who fired on the car, Pleasantville Officer Aaron Hess, said in a statement Thursday that Hess "acted in accordance with his training and as required under the circumstances," the Journal News reported.

The Pleasantville Police Benevolent Association said its members "stand firmly behind" Hess.

The other officer who fired at the car has been identified as Mount Pleasant Officer Ronald Beckley.

Mount Pleasant police Chief Louis Alagno, who is investigating the shooting with state police, did not return a call seeking comment.

Coulombe's account is similar to that presented Wednesday by Michael Sussman, the Henry family attorney, who said he had spoken with two men who were in the car with Henry.

Sussman said Henry was parked in a fire lane when an officer beckoned him to move. He said Henry complied and drove a few feet at low speed when another officer yelled, "Stop that car!"

An officer then "ran in front of the car, weapon drawn, and started firing within seconds," Sussman said.

He also said that paramedics who arrived after the shooting tended to the officers for several minutes rather than the mortally injured Henry.

A message left for the captain of the Pleasantville Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which covers Thornwood, was not immediately returned. Alagno said he would respond to those allegations, possibly Friday.

Coulombe spoke outside the Mount Pleasant town courthouse, where one of Henry's teammates appeared on a charge that he broke a store window in the aftermath of the shooting.

Pace quarterback Joseph Romanick, of Slidell, La., entered no plea during a brief appearance Thursday in Mount Pleasant Town Court.

His attorney, Richard Vercollone, said a deposition attached to the criminal complaint does not appear to support the charge of criminal mischief. The deposition, signed by a witness, does not make clear that the window was broken on purpose. It says Romanick was up against a window, talking to another person, when he "raised his hand in what looked like anger. He then pulled his hand back, causing his elbow to hit the window. The window shattered into pieces."

Romanick's right arm was in a sling, but the deposition indicated he suffered an arm injury before Sunday.

Three other teammates were arrested at the scene and charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction. They are due in court next month. Police said they were interfering with medical care but their defense lawyer, Bonita Zelman, claims police officers kept them from helping Henry as he lay dying. She has scheduled a news conference for Friday.

Pace's football game against Bentley University, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled because of Henry's death.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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