DJ Henry's Family Files New Lawsuit

The complaint alleges that police officers Kevin Gilmartin and Ronald Gagnon neither checked on or sought treatment for the Pace student who had just been shot by Pleasantville Police Officer Aaron Hess.

A second lawsuit against police officers who responded to reports of a crowd outside a Thornwood bar and shot a Pace University student will be filed in federal court Oct. 12. 

Aaron Hess, a Pleasantville police officer, killed D.J. Henry on Oct. 17, 2010, shooting him from the hood of Henry's car as Henry was driving. He was not indicted by a Westchester County Grand Jury; the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating.

Michael Sussman, attorney for the Henry family, said the story coming out through depositions for the first lawsuit, which was filed against Hess and his employer the village of Pleasantville, drew a very different picture than that described by police after the shooting.

The new complaint, which also names the Town of Mount Pleasant, includes information from depositions by Mount Pleasant police officers Ronald Gagnon and Kevin Gilmartin. According to their descriptions of events, after Hess had shot three times at Henry, Gagnon and Gilmartin went to Henry's car. Henry was breathing and conscious, according to the lawsuit.

Gagnon cuffed Henry while Gilmartin held him by his right arm and shoulder, then they put him face down on the ground.

"In light of what they had seen and heard, they knew he had been shot," the lawsuit alleges.

Neither called for urgent medical attention, nor did Gilmartin—a trained paramedic—check on the college junior.

"To my way of thinking...that sequence of events contributed to the demise of Mr. Henry," Sussman said in a phone press conference Wednesday, calling Gagnon's and Gilmartin's inaction "simply so reckless and so inexcusable that they must face consequences in a federal court."

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Last week Sussman released the deposition of Mount Pleasant Police Officer Ronald Beckley, the second officer to fire his weapon that night. Beckley said during his deposition in federal court that he fired his gun to stop Hess, whom he saw on the hood of Henry's car, did not know was an officer and felt was the "aggressor."

"I was shooting at a person that I thought was the aggressor and was inflicting deadly physical force on another," Beckley said.

Hess' attorney, Brian Sokoloff, criticized Sussman last week for releasing Beckley's deposition, calling the move premature.

According to police statements after the incident, Hess was injured when Henry hit him with his car.

According to Beckley's deposition, Beckley believed he had shot Hess.

Hess has been out on medical leave since the incident. Sussman said today that Hess's medical records have been made confidential by his attorneys. 

Sussman said he expected the second suit to be merged with the first, but that it had to be filed before the two-year limitation on wrongful death lawsuits runs out.

Read about the police press conference after the shooting here. Read about the initial police description of the incident here.

Lanning Taliaferro October 15, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Hi, RHH. The initial police report said that Officer Hess, who was not in his own jurisdiction, noticed the crowd outside the bar and called Mount Pleasant police. We'll check for you to see if there was more added to the official report of the start of the incident.
jjinla October 15, 2012 at 05:27 PM
What important parts? Every jury that has looked at this case has dismissed any charges against the police officer. But the parents will persist because their lawyer is free. That is the problem with our legal system as it relates to personal injuries. The absolute bottom of the barrel of the legal profession take up PI law and do it on a contingency basis because they know that a decent amount of people settle to make them go away. Defendants need more leeway to countersue for legal costs, and punitive damages should only go to a fund to help the greater good. If they lost their son because of his own stupidity (and YES, but for the fact he was being an idiot he would be alive today) they shouldn't become millionaires over it.
m October 16, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Adrian, thank you for your comments. So very well articulated. I do have sons who just happen to be black, one is 7 and the other is 6 weeks old. I would hate for something like this to happen to them. I am not saying that the actions were racially motivated, but ou look at patterns and to be on the side of caution, you start talking to our children at a very young age how to act when you are stopped by the police while driving black or Latino. The fact that they did not seek medical attention for him immediately is down right uncivilized and hopefully the wrongful death suit will bring closure to the family. No amount of money can bring their son back, but this will bring some time of solace. Even for people like myself, a 13 Westchster resident, who just want to see justice served.
Liz October 18, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I don't think this is about $ or bringing their son back.It's about justice &consequences for the ppl responsible,in this case the PoliceOfficers.These are the ppl we entrust to protect our families and neighborhood.The public deserves to know what happened &ensure that this doesnt happen to anyone else's family.Of course we as the public acknowledge a P.Os job is dangerous &we give them the authority to carry weapons &enforce the law,at the end of the day they are ppl too &they can make mistakes &poor choices just like the rest of us.My opinion this is about justice &prevention.If something like this was to happen again?Everyone would be wondering why it wasn't properly addressed the first time.We need to use tragic events as learn/teaching tools for the future to implement increased training for P.Os or whatever may be necessary. To compare the judgement of an alcohol impaired collegecoed to the judgement of a formally trained police officer who is assumingly of sound and sober mind is absurd! Similiarly to the individual who has the nerve to bring up the death of the mentallyill Marine whom was shot by the police. The police had an hour stand off with this gentlemen who they knew had mental issues, why didnt they bring in a professional equipped to deal with his issues instead of using brute force?Just because you have a badge/gun does not mean you use the best judgement all the time and as the public it is our responsibility to maintain checks & balances in our society.
RHH October 18, 2012 at 05:33 PM
jjinia - this case was never presented to a jury. The DA failed to get an indictment, we later learned that key witnesses were never called to testify in front of the Grand Jury. This does not mean that Officer Hess is(was) innocent. The DA did the community a disservice by failing to get an indictment so all the facts would be made public. One thing that this article fails to mention is the police chief held a press conference shortly after this tragedy claiming that Danroy received medical help within two to three minutes.... we now know this to be false. The police had the dashboard cam, it clearly shows Danroy was left unattended. We now know the chief misspoke The video is available on the web. You may not want to watch it, it will break your heart. The emts and the officers who were trained as first responders failed to act professionally I have yet to read of any review by the public safety officials of the actions of the police and emts that night and what could have been done differently


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