On His 21st Birthday, Pace Footballer Danroy "D.J" Henry Mourned

2,000 people gather in Boston to remember gridiron star on what would have been his 21st birthday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    He was a little boy beaming under Mickey Mouse ears. He was a driven college football player nicknamed Smooth and had a wrist tattoo that read "Family First." He was an incredibly slow eater.

    Photos, family and friends portrayed different sides of Danroy "D.J" Henry at his memorial service Friday in Boston, less than two weeks after he was shot to death in his car by police in suburban New York.

    Conflicting stories and confusion surround his death, but no one mourned the 20-year-old Henry as a victim Friday.

    "We are gathered to celebrate the life of D.J. Henry. Let me say it again, we are here to celebrate his life," pastor Gideon A. Thompson of Jubilee Christian Church said to applause on what would have been Henry's 21st birthday.

    An estimated 2,000 people attended the service in a ballroom at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, including childhood friends, college teammates and classmates at Pace University and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

    Speakers told of Henry's faith and devotion to others and asked the audience to honor him by how they live.

    "There is no cure for how you feel, but there is a treatment for dealing with it. ... You must find a way to pick up where D.J. left off and promise to do all that he would have done with his life," said Pace University coach Chris Dapolito.

    Henry, of Easton, was shot by police who were responding to a disturbance that spilled outside a Thornwood, N.Y., bar on Oct. 17.

    Police have said an officer knocked on the window of a car Henry was driving, and he drove away and hit two officers. But passengers said Henry was trying to move his car out of the fire lane and wasn't a threat to police.

    A law enforcement official said Henry's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit to drive at the time. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the autopsy report hadn't been released.

    The attorney for Henry's family questioned that and is conducting separate blood tests.

    Earlier Friday, the lawyer, Michael Sussman, said a police officer was not in harm's way when he fired the first shot at Henry. Sussman said a ballistics expert he hired determined the same officer fired at least three shots, one into the hood and two into the windshield.

    Sussman said the angle of the shot into the hood indicates it was fired from the side and that it would have come first since the officer was on top of the hood when he fired twice into the windshield.

    Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the Westchester County District Attorney's office, declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing.

    At the memorial, some speakers referred to the cloud around Henry's death, with Thompson saying it had been "snuffed out." Henry's uncle Dan Murphy sang in lyrics he wrote for Henry: "What makes men do the evil that they do? How the hell did they disrespect you?"

    His mother, Angella Henry, told the audience, "As we continue to fight for the truth, we will continue to need your love and support."

    But most of the service focused on Henry's personality and life up until the night of the shooting.

    Childhood pictures of Henry — at the beach, showing off a Burger King crown, buried in bubbles in a tub — flashed on a screen as mourners walked in.

    His friend Desmond Hinds, who was in the car the night of the shooting, recalled hours sitting with Henry as he ate his meals with excruciating slowness. "He wanted to digest his food, that's what he said," Hinds said.

    His younger sister, Amber, shared an essay she'd written in junior high about how oldest brother was her hero. His younger brother, Kyle, talked about his brother's closet full of stylish shoes and how he'd keep Kyle looking good, dropping piles of clothes on the floor when he visited and announcing, "Hand-me-downs!"

    "I just smiled because I knew it was coming," Kyle said.

    Speaking at a lectern draped with a cloth with Henry's Pace football number, 12, his father talked about how his son adopted the number in youth sports after he saw a picture of his father wearing it during his basketball-playing days. It became a symbol of how important family was to his son, he said.

    His father said the family still feels his presence.

    "That's what sustains us now," he said.

    Looking out at the large crowd, he added, "Even though he didn't want to have a big 21st birthday, he's going to."