How the media covered DJ Henry’s death


Colby Payne, Contributing Writer

On the fateful night of Oct. 17, 2010, there were no media members to be found on 1006 Broadway street when DJ Henry and his friends were leaving the Finnegan’s grill restaurant. Nor should there have been, it was just an ordinary Sunday night… until it wasn’t. 

When Aaron Hess stood in front of DJ Henry’s car that night firing bullets into the windshield, the evening turned to tragedy. Before anyone could report on the shooting, before anyone even knew they would have to report on the shooting, a witness of the brutality pulled out their flip phone and began filming the scene.

The video recorder gathered footage of the events transpiring as Aaron Hess was attended to by paramedics for a hurt knee while DJ Henry was handcuffed face down, bleeding out as police officers scurried away anyone who tried to help.

The police attempted to say that DJ Henry was trying to run over Aaron Hess, they tried to say that the police on the scene didn’t stall on getting him immediate medical help or threaten anyone who attempted to help Henry. Luckily, there was a flip phone recording the police, luckily the media didn’t fall for the police’s cover-up.

Immediately the media reports on the case were rightfully suspicious of what the police were telling the public. Everything the police came out with seemed to contradict with witness reports and the media broadcasted that suspicion to the public.

Media outlets such as The New York Post, CBS Boston and even The San Diego Union-Tribune were all immediately sympathetic to the DJ Henry case, barely reporting on the lies spewed at the press release done by the Mount Pleasant Police. 

Despite all of this, DJ Henry was not given justice. Aaron Hess was not indicted by a Westchester grand jury. In fact, the ignorance of Hess and the police department behind him continued. Aaron Hess was awarded officer of the year in 2011 by the Police Benevolent Association of the Pleasantville Police Department, they followed that by suing Briarcliff Wines & Liquors claiming that the store is responsible for DJ Henry being drunk. However, Henry’s case was unrelated to his BAC at that time.

As years pasts, DJ Henry’s case, like so many others before and after him faded back into obscurity in most of the country, without the justice he deserved. 

The Henry’s continued their fight for their son, their brother, their Danroy Henry. In 2016, they received a $6 million settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against Pleasantville and Aaron Hess. In 2017 they settled their lawsuit against Mount Pleasant and received an undisclosed amount of money, a large donation to the DJ Henry Dream Fund, and a public apology for what had transpired seven years prior.

Then in 2018 DJ Henry’s name was brought back to national attention when CBS aired an hour-long special titled “Defending DJ.” The special raised questions about the case for many around the country.

Why were the police so reckless that night? Why did Aaron Hess fire into DJ Henry’s car? Why did the police try to sweep it under the rug? Why was Aaron Hess not found guilty? The questions continued the next year when the NFL Players Coalition would release a public service announcement focusing on the DJ Henry case.

In June of 2020,  amidst the social uprising following the death of George Floyd, DJ Henry’s case would be brought back to attention. A petition was started to reopen the case, and the media began to go back in time to that fateful night in 2010.  In July, a group of celebrities including Jay-Z and Rihanna penned a letter to Attorney General William Barr to investigate the wrongful death of DJ Henry. 

Now, in October 2020, in the ten years that have passed since that night, what had at one time seemed like a dim hope, now seems like a bright promise for potential justice in the future.

 It is certain that DJ Henry’s name and story is here to stay.

When you search his name into Google, you will find the story of DJ Henry, a smiling young football player with the potential to do anything he wanted but had everything taken from him.

You will see the story of DJ Henry’s parents, who in the years since that night have fought not only for their own son, but for the tons of sons and daughters impacted by police brutality.