Slain Pace player legally drunk

11/18/2010 - College Football

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- An independent blood test arranged by the parents of a college football player who was fatally shot by police confirms an alcohol level above the legal limit for driving, but it does not prove he was drunk when the confrontation occurred, their lawyer said Wednesday.

The lawyer, Michael Sussman, said a lab hired by the family of Danroy "D.J." Henry Jr. tested blood drawn during Henry's autopsy and found an alcohol level of 0.128 percent. The legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press last month that the level was 0.13. Henry's parents, Danroy and Angella Henry of Easton, Mass., criticized that disclosure at the time and remain "not at all" convinced their son was drunk, Sussman said.

"The information we have is that he was totally functional and coherent in the period before and we have no indication he was impaired from anyone we've talked to," Sussman said during a telephone news conference.

He said the tests showed no "licit or illicit" drug use.

Henry was killed Oct. 17 during a disturbance outside a bar in the New York City suburb of Thornwood. Police said the Pace University student sped away and hit two officers after a third officer knocked on his car window.

The parents and some witnesses dispute that account and a Westchester County grand jury investigation is under way. The family is demanding that federal prosecutors take over the probe.

Sussman said that the blood sample provided by the Westchester medical examiner to the lab hired by the family -- NMS Labs in Willow Grove, Pa. -- was not labeled as to when it was taken and from what part of the body. He said that means the possibility exists that the alcohol level increased in the blood between the time Henry was killed and the time of the autopsy.

"If you took it a week later you'd have a very different [blood-alcohol] number than a day later," he said. He added, however, that he was told the autopsy was conducted within two days of the shooting.

The Westchester district attorney's office would not comment.

Sussman also said the Henrys are heading to Washington on Thursday in support of their call for a federal investigation. He said they had some scheduled meetings and "intend to speak with the highest-ranking official they can" at the Department of Justice.

The Henrys also plan to meet with senators from New York and Massachusetts, Sussman said. It was not clear if they had appointments with those officials. Calls to New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand were not immediately returned.

Sussman said that on Sunday, some family members and others would take part in an "educational forum" at a church in White Plains and then hold a protest outside the Westchester County Courthouse.