Moguls Jay-Z and Rihanna are demanding that the U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice reopen the case of 20-year-old college student Danroy “DJ” Henry, who was murdered by a white police officer in 2010.
Pharrell Williams, Charlize Theron, Taraji Henson, Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Williams, Kerry Washington, Mary J. Blige, and Gabrielle Union also joined the call for action in a letter sent on Monday to Barr, urging him to take a second look at the case to determine if a “pattern of discrimination” resulted in Henry’s death.
“If it did — deliver the justice that restores this young man’s name and reputation, while giving hope to other young black men who are just like him and desperate for change,” read the letter. “The facts support this request, the law all but requires it, and justice — it demands it.”
The call for justice stems from the incident on October 17th, 2010, where police were called to a bar near Pace University in Westchester County, New York, after reports of a brawl. Henry was seated in the driver’s seat of his vehicle with his best friend, Brandon Cox when authorities arrived.
According to police reports, Henry sped off after Officer Aaron Hess knocked on his window. Hess then claims that he stepped in front of Henry’s car, then the young man reportedly pressed the gas, driving into him. Ness claims he then grabbed hold of Henry’s hood for safety and began firing shots into the car, killing the college student. Ronald Beckley, another officer on the scene, fired shots at Hess, mistaking him for an assailant on top of the vehicle.
However, the Henry family’s lawyer says that Henry was slowly driving through the parking lot when Hess lunged at his car and voluntarily jumped on the hood before firing into the windshield, killing Henry and injuring Cox, who was in the passenger seat.
After brutally shooting Henry, Hess, with Beckley’s assistance, removed Henry from the car and proceeded to cuff him, despite his injuries. They left the young man face down in the street for 10 minutes until paramedics arrived with a defibrillator. The officers claimed that they were unaware that Henry had been shot in the ordeal. Henry bled to death at the scene.
A year after the shooting, a grand jury voted against indicting Hess, who retired three months after the incident. Henry’s family settled a civil lawsuit with Pleasantville for $6 million and received an apology. They also received a $250,000 donation to a charity in Henry’s name from Mount Pleasant.
Henry’s story was previously highlighted in 2019 when a coalition of NFL players, who came together to promote racial justice, released a series of videos centered around the cases of black people murdered by law enforcement. Henry’s case was amongst the stories.
Barr has not yet responded.