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Parents of slain student want federal probe into police shooting

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Fair look at son's killing 'impossible'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • D.J. Henry Jr. died October 17 after a police officer shot him
  • His parents say they aren't surprised a grand jury failed to indict the officer
  • "The presentation of the evidence ... was absolutely ineffective," Henry's father says
  • The officer's attorney says Henry's "poor decisions" led to his death
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New York (CNN) -- The parents of a Pace University football player shot to death by a police officer last year said Tuesday they are not surprised that a grand jury refused to indict the officer, as they believe the jurors heard faulty evidence.

"The presentation of the evidence and the facts was absolutely ineffective, based on what we know to be the truth, given our own investigation," Danroy Henry Sr. told CNN's "American Morning."

His son, 20-year-old Danroy "D.J." Henry Jr., was shot by police early on October 17 outside a bar at a shopping center in Thornwood, New York, authorities said.

Grand jurors on Monday found "there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment," Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said in a statement.

"We believe that all along this process was designed to get a no true bill, not an indictment," the elder Henry said. "We were prepared for that." He said the police department's evidence from its investigation is the same evidence used by the district attorney, posing "inherent conflicts." "It would be impossible for us to accept" that the grand jury process "would be a fair and impartial process that would lead to an indictment," he said.

The shooting occurred after a police officer came across "a large group of unruly patrons" brawling in front of Finnegan's Grill in Thornwood, and called for support, according to a police press release at the time.

Some 50 police officers, including some from nearby Mount Pleasant, responded to the brawl, which continued after the shooting incident, the statement said.

Officers were breaking up fights, police said, when "a vehicle parked in the fire lane" accelerated. A police officer tried to stop the vehicle, which Henry was driving, but its mirror struck the officer and the officer "ended up on the hood," said police.

The officer on the hood shot at the driver, but the vehicle continued in the fire lane in the direction of another officer. That officer also fired at the vehicle, according to the police press release.

But Donna Parks -- whose son, a friend of Henry's, was shot and wounded in the incident -- disputed the police account in an interview with CNN shortly after the shooting.

She said Henry and others in the car were waiting for a friend to come out of the establishment "when a police officer banged ... on the window." She said Henry began driving after her son, Brandon Cox, told him that he thought police wanted him to move his car. "Another police officer with his gun drawn just ran out in front of DJ's car," said Parks, insisting Henry had no time to stop.

Parks told CNN that police "pulled DJ out of the car, handcuffed him, put him face down on the ground and left him there for 15 to 20 minutes."

In October, Chief Louis Alagno of the Mount Pleasant police said that officers handcuffed Henry -- a resident of Easton, Massachusetts -- without realizing that he had been shot. Once they realized it, Alagno said authorities then removed Henry's handcuffs and tried to save his life.

An attorney for Aaron Hess, the officer who shot Henry, issued a statement Monday that said in part, "the tragedy of D.J. Henry's death cannot and should not be distorted to pursue an agenda which ignores the sad and painful truth that a 20-year-old man who by all accounts was a good and decent human being made very, very poor decisions that night and morning that brought about his own death."

Meanwhile, the Henrys are pushing for a federal probe into the death of their son. They are also pursuing a civil lawsuit.

"Without accountability, this will happen again," Danroy Henry Sr. said. "It will happen to somebody else's family. It'll happen the same way. ... We always believed there should be both punishment and penalty. A civil judgment would be the penalty. But we're still very interested in the punishment. We still believe that there needs to be a murder conviction here, starting with an indictment. We never believed the indictment would come at the state level. We always thought it would have to come at the federal level. We hope that would happen now."

The Henrys' attorney, Michael Sussman, said in a statement Monday: "We have no choice but to believe that evidence was either withheld or mishandled during the grand jury proceedings. ... District Attorney DiFiore and her office (were) more concerned about keeping us shielded from the truth (and) yielded an outcome we predicted."

According to the statement released by DiFiore, the grand jury heard testimony from 85 witnesses and more than 100 exhibits. In addition, medical records, phone records, ballistics evidence and police radio transmissions were collected from the scene.

CNN's Jessica Naziri contributed to this report.

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