Henry, a cornerback for Pace University's football team, was known as "D.J.'' He would have celebrated his 21st birthday Friday preparing for Saturday's Division II home game against New Haven.
Instead, Henry's teammates, friends and family will gather in Boston for a memorial service because Henry died on Oct. 17 behind the wheel of his car with three police bullets in his body. It happened hours after a homecoming game against Stonehill in suburban Westchester County north of New York City.
His death -- and many of the disputed details surrounding it -- opened what his coach has called a raw wound. Issues raised by the case include alcohol use, racial bias and appropriate response of law enforcement in a tense and chaotic scene.
Michael Sussman, a civil rights lawyer representing the Henry family, alluded this week to other shootings of black men by white police officers around the New York area in recent years. Earlier this month, a Harlem man was shot and killed by a Pelham Manor police officer.
"It's beyond belief except that it always happens,'' Sussman said this week. "We keep seeing it. We then have the attendant polarization. We have no institutional response that meets the need. And we go through craziness. And that's what's happening here.''
Anthony Chiarlitti, the chief of police in Pleasantville, N.Y., said people should not jump to conclusions about what happened when two officers, one from his department, fired toward Henry's Nissan Altima.
Chiarlitti said it would be "inappropriate and irresponsible'' to characterize the officer who did the shooting as racially biased.
"Please do not rush to judgment on any aspect of this tragic incident,'' Chiarlitti said in a written statement.
That has not prevented some in the news media from coming to conclusions. Bill O'Reilly, the commentator on the Fox News Channel, summed up his report on the case Tuesday night by saying, "Let's assume that the kid did do something crazy.''
In discussing Friday's memorial service, Chris Dapolito -- the first-year head coach of the Setters -- spoke of Henry in the present tense. "He really is the best athlete on the team,'' he said. "I worry about the well-being of our players. It's very therapeutic to come together.''
The event will be at 2 p.m. ET in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center because Henry was from Easton, Mass. A blue invitation (right) circulated this week on campus showed the words "From Birth to Rebirth, a Celebration of Life.''
But it will take more than speeches and sincere sentiment to bring closure. Sussman and another lawyer representing other players arrested in the fracas have called for the investigation of the shooting by the U.S. Department of Justice.
A local investigation conducted by the police forces involved would be "fatally flawed,'' Sussman wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder. "It is too early to tell whether racial profiling and stereotyping animated the shooting,'' Sussman wrote, "but that hypothesis must be pursued.''
Also shot, but not severely wounded, was Brandon Cox, a Stonehill football player who was a friend of Henry. He sat in the front seat and was hit in the arm. Cox's stepfather, Thomas Parks, charged in a recent news conference that police used excessive force and did not get medical aid to Henry when he was mortally wounded.
"To handcuff D.J. after he'd been shot, and to lay him on the ground face down, bleeding, and to be left there like some wild, wounded animal on the side of the road without medical attention -- that just shouldn't happen,'' Parks said. He added that Henry's last words were, "They shot me! They shot me! They shot me!''
Police have denied Henry's chest wounds were ignored and have said medical assistance was provided rapidly after they noted their severity. What occurred before the shooting also remains unclear. Henry's friends said he was not drinking alcohol in Finnegan's Grill in Thornwood, N.Y., because he told them he was a designated driver.
But a report leaked anonymously to news media from law enforcement sources last week suggested that an autopsy showed Henry with a blood alcohol level of .13, more than the legal limit of .08.
However, Pleasantville Chief Chiarlitti this week called the story of the blood-alcohol level "an unconfirmed report.''
Pleasantville and Thornwood are both located within the larger Town of Mt. Pleasant. The case is being investigated by Mt. Pleasant police along with New York State Police and the Westchester County District Attorney's Office.
In a letter to District Attorney Janet DiFiori, Sussman called the leak of Henry's alleged blood alcohol level "either incompetence or maliciousness.''
On a Boston-area radio station, U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R.-Mass.) said he was under the impression that Henry was neither drinking nor using drugs and tried to move his car when told by an officer who knocked on his window.
"Apparently, he had the big stereo system with the woofers and he was parked in the fire lane,'' Sen. Brown told radio station WEEI in Brighton, Mass.
Local police have said Henry was shot after hitting two police officers with his car in the fire lane of a parking lot in a strip mall that includes the restaurant at about 1:20 a.m.
Some students said police used stun guns on others in the vicinity. Coach Dapolito said he rushed to the scene after getting a call from a frantic player ("I could hear all the noises in the background,'' he said) and discovered "40-something cop cars'' there.
"There were a lot of things going on in different places of a large parking lot,'' Dapolito said. "We had clusters of players all over as well as other students and other kids. The police obviously wanted to keep people out. I explained who I was. I was worried about getting my players back to a safe place.''
Another disputed detail involves Officer Aaron Hess, the Pleasantville officer who fired his gun toward Henry's car. Despite reports that Henry was killed by Hess' bullets, the Chief said this is not certain.
"Officer Hess and at least one Mt. Pleasant police officer fired shots,'' Chief Chiarlitti said. "I ask that you wait to see what the official report concludes before making any assumptions.''
Chiarlitti said Hess served as a Marine and with the New York City Police department before joining the Pleasantville force more than 10 years ago.
The other shooter has been identified as Officer Ronald Beckley of Mt. Pleasant. Beckley has hired Andrew Quinn, a lawyer who has successfully defended police officers against charges in a beating death and other civil rights claims.
Hess suffered "very serious injuries'' when hit by Henry's car, the chief said. Matthew Listwan, president of the Pleasantville police union, said in a written statement last week that Hess needed surgery for a knee injury.
Listwan said Hess fired from the hood of Henry's car because he feared for his life after Henry refused orders to stop the car.
Sussman said this week that the five bullets were shot into the car from two different guns. Three bullets pierced the windshield, he said.
Amateur video available on the Internet taken in the immediate aftermath shows officers with guns drawn and a woman attempting to resuscitate Henry with chest compressions amid shouts and screams from those nearby. Sussman said surveillance cameras from nearby stores might reveal more details.
Outside the restaurant this week, a sidewalk shrine to Henry at the spot of his death has been maintained with bouquets of fresh flowers amid candles, a photograph of his face and two football balloons. One balloon was inflated, the other deflated. A handmade sign said "Rest in peace.''