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Remembering D.J. Henry

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Guest blogger Kate Tuttle: When college student Danroy "D.J." Henry was shot and killed by police in Mt. Pleasant, N.Y., last weekend, he became just the latest in a long line of young black men whose lives ended far too soon under questionable circumstances. While the police claim that Henry, a Massachusetts native attending Pace University, sped toward them in his car, eyewitnesses and the videotape from the scene tell a different story, one featuring police officers overreacting to a crowd they saw as threatening, ending in a very bad choice.

Danroy Henry
His parents say they don't want to make this into a story about race. I understand where they're coming from: What they want is the truth, and some measure of peace, in the wake of a terrible loss. They don't want to become part of someone else's narrative about a global injustice. But as the mother of a black son, I can't ignore the role that race plays in this story.

Black boys and young men are at risk the moment they step out their doors into a world in which the police are primed to see them as a threat. Look, police officers have a really tough job, and college students and other teenagers don't make it easy for them. But they are also human beings who carry the same prejudices and fears we all have, to varying degrees.

I've grown up on college campuses and currently live across the street from a large, mostly white, suburban high school, and I've seen how the police can handle crowds in ways that don't involve gunfire. Henry and his friends were not armed, were not dangerous. Their only crime, it seems, was being in the wrong place and perhaps misunderstanding a cop's shouted orders. This is not a crime to die for. How many more young black men -- unarmed, innocent -- will be shot and killed by police before anything is done beyond the inevitable day-after handwringing?

My son is only 4 now, still young and cute. But I fear the day his race will make some officer scared, will prompt a choice without any redress, will end up getting him hurt through no fault of his own. Sean Bell.Timothy Stansbury. Amadou Diallo. And now D.J. Henry. Each one was his mother's son. And every mother, no matter her child's race or gender, should care.


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109 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous October 25, 2010, 10:09 AM

Everything I’ve read about this case states the police tapped on his window for him to open and he sped away instead, hitting 2 police officers and heading toward a 3rd office. So one can understand why the officers would shoot.

mc October 25, 2010, 12:17 PM

Very good article Ms. Tuttle.

mike October 25, 2010, 8:35 PM

If a cop says stop, you stop and drop spread eagle thats it thats all black or white.

Jamie October 26, 2010, 5:18 AM

Ms. Tuttle - please don’t play the rae card in this case!! This guy ignores an officer and then run 2 down and head for a 3rd! Of course the cops would shoot! How is this a tragedy or how does ithave anythig to do with race? It also has nothing to do with “handling a crowd without gunfire”; this wasn’t a crowd situation. The man was using a speeding car as a weapon!! How many people should he been allowed to hit before it would be acceptable to use force? I guarantee had it been author’s husband or child hit by his car the post would ring very different.

Susan October 26, 2010, 6:03 PM

Clearly the responders have not read the entire report. Have you ever been outside a bar, in a car with the radio blaring? I, as a young white woman would probably not have heard the cop as I would not be expecting to hear one. Like DJ Wasn’t. Also, the pictures of his car tell a story a bit different than the one police told. His entire left front axle is broken, but no damage to the front. He didn’t hit something..something hit him..like a cruiser. I am a white woman from a small suburban rich town and the Westchester cops reacted just like my hometown cops would have…..They are used to responding to a cat in a tree…pulled their guns and got trigger happy in the chaos with the wrong kids. Happens all the time and has NOTHING to do with race. And, all witness reports are contradictory to the police. What happened to the woman who tried to give DJ CPR and was wisked away by police??? As he lied there and died…they need to find her and get her to testify!

Mimi October 26, 2010, 6:03 PM

Kate Tuttle, I so agree with you. As a writer my first reaction was how could this happen? 150 at a homecoming party in Finnegans and in seconds it turned to murder. My first question was what was a Pleasantville “cop” doing in Thornwood and he puts in the first call to Mt. Pleasant police that there is a “Brawl.” My father was a policeman. He said that many people joined the force to bully others. I learned that the bullyies and killers were “cops,” the properly trained officers were policemen and knew how to handle a crowd. Anyone seeing the video of a “cop” with both hands on his pistol and waving it at young people who were now fearing for their life — what if that gun went off? One of Henry’s teammates wanted to treat him and a “cop” shoved his gun into his ribs and asked him if he wanted to be next. In this new age of cell phones, etc., they many times show the truth. Why was there a foot print on the hood of Henry’s car? Some people saw Hess jump up on the hood and fire. I hope and pray that an impartial investigation handles this hideous crime. Oh, I’m a white person and I lost my only child, my son, to pancreatic cancer 10 months ago.The loss of Henry’s life brought back so many painful memories as my son went through much of what Mr. Henry went thru. Dying a very painful death. Both senseless. God bless the Henry family and forgive us for treating a precious young man this way.

Mimi October 26, 2010, 6:07 PM

Kate Tuttle, I so agree with you. As a writer my first reaction was how could this happen? 150 at a homecoming party in Finnegans and in seconds it turned to murder. My first question was what was a Pleasantville “cop” doing in Thornwood and he puts in the first call to Mt. Pleasant police that there is a “Brawl.” My father was a policeman. He said that many people joined the force to bully others. I learned that the bullyies and killers were “cops,” the properly trained officers were policemen and knew how to handle a crowd. Anyone seeing the video of a “cop” with both hands on his pistol and waving it at young people who were now fearing for their life — what if that gun went off? One of Henry’s teammates wanted to treat him and a “cop” shoved his gun into his ribs and asked him if he wanted to be next. In this new age of cell phones, etc., they many times show the truth. Why was there a foot print on the hood of Henry’s car? Some people saw Hess jump up on the hood and fire. I hope and pray that an impartial investigation handles this hideous crime. Oh, I’m a white person and I lost my only child, my son, to pancreatic cancer 10 months ago.The loss of Henry’s life brought back so many painful memories as my son went through much of what Mr. Henry went thru. Dying a very painful death. Both senseless. God bless the Henry family and forgive us for treating a precious young man this way.

Anonymous October 27, 2010, 8:32 AM

Have you ever been outside a bar, in a car with the radio blaring?

The officer knocked on his window, Henry chose to ignore him.

I’m sure aside from running over people he was swell guy.

I'm Just Saying October 28, 2010, 9:00 AM

Some of the responses are so idiotic that it makes me wonder why you would even post without first reading the article above. You are taking the officers point and completely disregarding the “Eye Wittnesses” as well as the “Video Tape.” Do you not realize that a young man has lost his life. You want to be so quick to condemn the victim, because you are just as racist as the officers who pulled the trigger. As an officer you are there to protect and serve. When you see some one that is in distress you offer aide to or allow aide to be offered. These officers did none of the above and went even further to hinder any one from offering any assistance. Do yourselves a favor and “THINK” before you post. Racism is not dead yet and some of your posts are written proof.

CB November 3, 2010, 5:24 PM

I like your article. It is very true and speaks from a mothers heart. I am amazed and bothered by some of the comments on here! Unfortunately, all too common. p.s. I am not black, but I am related to a half a dozen different ethnic groups, so maybe that’s why I see & have experienced somethings that others have not.

Laila November 5, 2010, 9:50 AM

As a black woman (so you can’t accuse me of racism) that man willfully RAN DOWN OFFICERS. Of course they would shoot. Anyone crying racism would not be doing so if he had been a white guy who did it.

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