Police Reform

Westchester DA Takes New Look at Deadly Police Shootings of Pace Student, Ex-Marine

Danroy "DJ" Henry was killed Oct. 17, 2020 when officers shot at his moving car; the Pace student was 20 years old at the time. Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68-year-old ex-Marine suffering from mental illness, was shot and killed at his apartment in November 2011 following a confrontation with cops

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A former federal judge will assist the Westchester District attorney's office in its reopening of two previous deadly police-involved shootings in the county for review, District Attorney Miriam Roach announced Thursday.

The judge will also look into how the local district attorney's office handled the cases involving Danroy "DJ" Henry" and Kenneth Chamberlain, she said.

Henry, a 20-year-old Black Pace University student, was killed by a white police officer on Oct. 17, 2010, when officers shot at his moving vehicle. The family received a settlement and an apology from Pleasantville for Henry's death, but the former police officer who shot him, Aaron Hess, was never criminally charged.

Chamberlain, a 68-year-old former U.S. Marine suffering from mental illness, was shot and killed in his home on Nov. 19, 2011, during a confrontation with White Plains police after they responded to an accidental medical alert. At times during that confrontation, Chamberlain, who was Black, had a knife, authorities have said.

The parents of slain Pace University football player Danroy Henry say the police purposely mislead investigators looking into their son’s death in order to protect the officers involved. Roseanne Colletti reports.

His family said the shooting was racially motivated. A state grand jury opted not to indict the officers involved. Later, a federal jury rejected claims brought by Chamberlain's family against White Plains and the officer who shot Chamberlain.

The proceedings in both cases were automatically sealed by the court after grand juries declined to indict the officers involved. The new reviews will be conducted internally by designated assistant district attorneys and investigators selected by Roach along. A team of pro bono attorneys led by John Gleeson, a Debevoise & Plimpton LLP partner who previously served as a U.S. District Judge in the Eastern District of New York and who was also a federal prosecutor, will also assist.

“For the families of Kenneth Chamberlain and DJ Henry, the pain of their loss has not gone away over the past 10 years, nor have the questions they have about why their loved ones were killed,” Rocah said in a statement Thursday. "The Chamberlain and Henry families and many members of the Westchester community have asked me to review the circumstances of the shootings, the investigation and charging decisions by the DA’s Office, and the grand juries’ decision not to return indictments in either case. Today, I am announcing that I will do exactly that."

“Some may ask, why look backwards? The reason is simple: Today, we have appropriately higher expectations have for scrutiny of police encounters with mentally ill and unarmed people and for prosecutors’ responses to such incidents,” Rocah added. “The Henry and Chamberlain families and our community have felt strongly that further independent review is needed to heal the open wounds from these shootings. It is in that spirit that this review will be undertaken.

There is no set timetable for the review process, but the families of both Chamberlain and Henry supported Roach's decision to take another look.

"In the 3,088 days since our son was killed, we have simply asked for an objective review of the absolute truth surrounding his killing," Henry's parents said. "We welcome today’s news as a necessary and overdue step which we hope will lead to some more just outcome."

"After 10 years, we believe there may never be actual justice for my father, but we are hopeful that there will be some accountability in the killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr," Chamberlain's son added. "In my opinion this is a big step toward building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve."

The two cases are among the latest to be reviewed in the aftermath of protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police. The national magnitude of that case, the protests and the ensuing jury decisions have encouraged the families of more men to try to get the investigations reopened.

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