48 HOURS brings viewers a story of dedicated parents and their struggle to restore their son’s reputation after he was shot dead by a police officer, in an encore of “Defending DJ,” to be broadcast Saturday, June 22 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
CBS News special correspondent James Brown and 48 HOURS take viewers back to the early morning hours of Oct. 17, 2010, when Danroy “DJ” Henry, a Pace University football player, was shot dead by Pleasantville, N.Y., police officer Aaron Hess. That event triggered a seven-year journey for DJ’s family as they searched for answers.
“We’re not anti-police,” says Danroy Henry, Sr., DJ’s father. “We’re just trying to understand what the facts tell us. Was it a justified shooting or was it not justified? Because if it wasn’t – it was murder.”
“People believed fervently that they knew what happened,” says Brian Sokoloff, who represents Hess. “And whenever you hear of a case like this, you can’t believe first impressions.”
“Defending DJ” is a story that raises significant questions about how the police responded; the narrative set early by the Mount Pleasant police, who claimed Henry tried to mow down officers with his car; and what really happened that night. It’s also about one family’s intensely personal quest to find the truth about their son’s final night alive.
During a night out at a bar with his teammates, a fight broke out among other patrons, and police were called. DJ and his friends left the bar and were waiting in his car in a fire lane. DJ’s passengers say an officer knocked on the back window indicating DJ should move. According to police, when that officer approached DJ’s car, he sped off. Soon after, Hess, then a Pleasantville police officer, ended up on the hood, shooting in. DJ was fatally shot while behind the wheel of his car.
In a hastily called press conference, Mount Pleasant police chief Louis Alagno defended the police officers and said Henry tried to run them over while accelerating away from the scene. Hess maintained he shot into the car because he feared for his life and had no other option. Henry’s friends and witnesses denied he was driving fast and said he wasn’t trying to hit the officer. They paint a far different picture. Witnesses also noted that Henry was slow to receive medical attention.
What the Henrys heard from police about their son didn’t ring true, either. The Henrys vowed to learn the truth – no matter what.They just wanted to know what happened to their son. Despite questions raised about his actions the night Henry died, Hess was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
48 HOURS: “Defending DJ” is produced by Alvin Patrick and Sarah Prior. Richard Fetzer is the field producer. Atticus Brady is the producer-editor, and Gary Winter and Michael Sheehan are the editors. Linda Martin is the update producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.