DJ Henry Coda: The Case Today

By Phillip Martin

Oct. 21, 2011

Angella Henry with shirt

Angella Henry, the mother of DJ Henry, holds a tee-shirt she was sent by college students in support of her son. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)


BOSTON — In February 2011, when a New York grand jury did not indict anyone involved in the shooting death of DJ Henry, Henry’s family called for a federal investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez heads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“When these shootings occur, oftentimes you will have a local investigation and we monitor that investigation very carefully, and at the conclusion of that we will make a judgment as to whether or not the facts support a criminal civil rights prosecution,” Perez said.
When the division reviews a case, the team works with a series of experts that often include former police chiefs, Perez said. “So we can go in, analyze training policy and procedures, identify challenges and weaknesses, and correct them. We are able to play a very constructive role because our teams that conduct these reviews are teams that include not only lawyers but experts in effective policing.”
It is not known when the Justice Department will offer its opinion.
The Henry family has moved ahead with a $120 million civil lawsuit against two police forces in New York.
Aaron Hess, the officer who shot and killed Henry, recently sued a liquor store that he alleges sold alcohol to the underage football player. He claims it was alcohol that led to the incident.
Hess was also injured that night. His lawyer Mitchell Baker claimed the officer’s life had been turned “upside down” since the shooting.
“His knee is terribly injured. Several broken bones, broken kneecaps, torn ligaments, tendons. He has been out of work for eight months,” Mitchell said. Hess is undergoing rehabilitation; his ability to return to police work is in doubt.
In the broader culture, DJ Henry case has become a cause célèbre, inspiring a tribute from hip-hop artists Kanye West and Jay-Z, and postings on YouTube and Facebook

His hometown of Easton, Mass. has just named a sports field after him and his family has established the DJ Henry Dream Fund, a nonprofit providing resources for promising young athletes. 

Angella Henry said she thinks of her son all the time.

"I imagine him with us at the dinner table, coming to church with us, coming out of his room in the morning,” she said, her voice shaking. “I still think he’ll call at night. I think he’ll be home. There’s not a day that goes by where we don’t imagine him here.”

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