GOSHEN, N.Y. — Paramedics ignored a handcuffed and dying college football player shot by police and attended to injured officers for several minutes while his friend stood by screaming for help, a lawyer hired by the student’s family charged Wednesday, calling for an independent investigation into the death.
Brandon Cox, who was grazed by a police bullet in the burst of gunfire that killed Danroy “D.J.” Henry, left the car under his own power after the shooting, then realized no one was helping Henry, lawyer Michael Sussman said.
“He saw the police come to the vehicle, drag his friend out, handcuff his friend, lay his friend head-down on the ground, and no help was coming,” Sussman said.
When paramedics arrived and began tending to the officers, Cox began screaming for help: “We’ve been shot! We’ve been shot!” Twelve to 15 minutes passed before Henry received medical help, according to Cox, Sussman said.
Messages seeking comment on the paramedic’s actions were left with a spokesman for the Westchester police, which made the arrests. Sussman did not know which ambulance company answered the call, and a Mount Pleasant police dispatcher said the department uses several companies.
Mount Pleasant police Chief Louis Alagno, who is investigating the shooting with state police, did not return a call seeking comment. Alagno said Monday that Henry was handcuffed until officers realized he was gravely wounded, then was uncuffed and treated.
Police have said that Henry, a 20-year-old Pace University student, sped away and hit two officers after a policeman knocked on his window. But Sussman said Wednesday that eyewitness accounts from Cox, a third man in the car who wasn’t injured and others contradict that story.
Henry was at the wheel of his car in a fire lane early Sunday when a police officer beckoned him to move along, Sussman said. Henry complied and had driven just a few feet at low speed when another officer yelled that the car should be stopped, at which point an officer ran in front of the car with his weapon drawn and started firing within seconds, according to Sussman.
Several agencies are investigating.
Also Wednesday, the lawyer for three of Henry’s teammates said they had been brutalized by officers and arrested when they tried to help their mortally wounded friend after witnessing the shooting. One player knows CPR and begged the police to let him try to save Henry, but instead “they put a gun to his ribs and they told him to back … up or he would be next,” attorney Bonita Zelman told The Associated Press.
She said the other two teammates were zapped with stun guns when they tried to intervene. They said Henry “was on the pavement, handcuffed and dying, and no one was helping him,” she said.
Westchester police spokesman Kieran O’Leary said one of Zelman’s clients, Yves Delpeche of Brooklyn, N.Y., had to be subdued with a stun gun. But O’Leary said the department had received no formal complaint regarding excessive force.
“If we received one, we’d look at it,” he said.
Zelman did not make allegations against specific officers, claiming some of them covered their badges.
Henry, of Easton, Mass., was killed after police were called to a disturbance that spilled out of a bar about 25 miles north of New York. Many of the estimated 150 people at the scene in a shopping center in Thornwood were students from the Pace campus in nearby Pleasantville, where the homecoming football game had been played on Saturday.
Four of Henry’s teammates were arrested after the shooting, including the three now represented by Zelman: Daniel Parker, of Lauderhill, Fla.; Joseph Garcia, of Floral Park, N.Y.; and Delpeche. All are 22.
O’Leary said Tuesday that all three were charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction. Parker and Delpeche also were charged with resisting arrest. All were interfering with getting medical aid to the injured, O’Leary said.
The fourth teammate, Joseph Romanick of Slidell, La., was accused of breaking a window in the shopping center.
Zelman said none of the charges against her clients are true.
“Mr. Henry had been shot and left in the street handcuffed without anyone giving him medical aid. Under the law, as bystanders, these young men have the right to take it on themselves to perform first aid on their friend.”
The officers who fired at the car have been identified as Pleasantville Officer Aaron Hess and Mount Pleasant Officer Ronald Beckley.
Zelman said the Westchester County district attorney should not allow police departments to investigate shootings “and other mischief” involving their own officers. She said she will ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. Sussman said the state should have an independent investigator, arguing that district attorneys’ offices have “a cozy relationship” with law enforcement.
The district attorney’s office and the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.
Zelman said Parker told police he could perform CPR but one officer threatened him with a gun and then four or five rushed him, threw him to the ground and punched him.
“He told me he was looking at his friend, looking at him in the eyes as he was dying, and he can’t come to grips with the police not allowing him to do CPR and first aid to save his friend’s life,” the attorney said.
Zelman said Delpeche told her he saw Henry on the ground with his legs twitching and yelled at officers, “Why did you shoot him? What did he do to deserve this?”
She said he claims two officers pointed stun guns at his head while he had his hands in the air and he said, “There are a lot of people watching you. Are you going to Taser me?” One officer then shot him twice in the stomach with the stun gun, she said.
Garcia was also shot with a stun gun when he tried to help Delpeche, Zelman said. O’Leary said Wednesday that only Delpeche was stunned.
Zelman said she also represents Desmond Hines, the friend of Henry’s who was in the back seat of Henry’s car when Henry was shot. She said that after the shooting, officers pulled him out, threw him on the ground, cuffed him and put a gun to his head. She said Hines suffered a concussion but was not treated until he went to the hospital days later.
The attorney said she is also representing another football player, Ali Mourtada, “to protect his rights as a witness.”
Zelman would not name a sixth client, whom she described as a woman who “collapsed hysterically” when an officer pointed a gun at her head.
The lawyer said all her clients except the woman are Black, and said “there is a racial aspect” because the officers involved in the shooting are White. She and Sussman said they did not know of any specific racial slurs used Sunday. Sussman said Henry came from a biracial family.