January 10, 2011
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Albany, NY 12224
Re: Request for Appointment of Special Prosecutor to Investigate October 17, 2010 Police shooting and killing of Pace football player Danroy Henry, Jr., Police shooting of Brandon Cox, and tasering of five other teammates when they attempted to come to aid of Danroy Henry. Request for Special Trainings for Police Departments to Remove Racial Disproportionality in Outcome of Police Conduct.
Dear Governor Cuomo,
This letter is written as a request by several community groups for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate the murder of Danroy Henry, Jr. on October 17th committed by the Mount Pleasant and Pleasantville Police Departments in Thornwood, New York. Five Pace University students and football team members were attacked, tasered, beaten and arrested by police officers of the Mount Pleasant Police Department, the Pleasantville Police Department, and the Westchester County Police Department when they attempted to perform CPR and aid their dying teammate, D.J. After being gravely wounded, D.J. was dragged from his vehicle by local police, handcuffed face down in the street and left to die without life-saving medical treatment.
We cannot help but wonder if the tragic outcome would have been the same had DJ and his friends in the car been white instead of black. We are deeply concerned that police officers across the state are consistently quick to use deadly force against African Americans and appear to use different standards when dealing with the white community. In this context, we also call upon your office to institute a special training for police officers to eliminate the different police standards in dealing with the public based on skin color, an endeavor that the City of Seattle has embarked upon in their commitment to fairness and racial equity.
Currently, the Westchester County District Attorney is criminally prosecuting four of the students for obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and other related crimes. None of these students has a criminal record.
Pleasantville Police Chief Anthony Chiarlitti has confirmed that Pleasantville Police Officer Aaron Hess fired his gun three (3) times into the windshield of D.J.’s moving vehicle. Officer Ronald Beckley of the Mount Pleasant Police Department also fired his gun at the car full of students.
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore assigned the Mount Pleasant Police Department to lead the investigation into the shooting death of D.J. Henry. The District Attorney’s office is not investigating the violence committed against the other Pace students. In our view, DA DiFiore is improperly allowing the police departments involved in the wrongdoing to investigate themselves. The impartiality of any such investigation is clearly compromised and any confidence in the fairness of its outcome has been lost.
The ongoing working relationship between the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Mount Pleasant Police Department, Pleasantville Police Department and the Westchester County Police Department presents serious conflict of interest issues and undermines public confidence in the outcome of this investigation and any consequent Grand Jury presentation. The DA’s office cannot reasonably prosecute the students who came to assist D.J. and simultaneously vouch for the credibility of those departments’ officers by said prosecutions, while claiming to be impartially investigating D.J.’s murder.
Consequently, we respectfully request that a Special Prosecutor be appointed to lead this investigation in a manner which will promote public confidence in its outcome and recognize the inherent institutional conflicts which prejudice the investigation to date.
With appreciation for your consideration,
Cora Miles, Assistant Principal, NYC Board of Education (retired), Westchester County resident
Blauvelt Dominican Sisters Social Justice Committee
Alexander Drab, Concerned Citizen of Westchester County
Free Mumia Abu Jamal Committee, NYC
Rev. Peggy Clarke, for InterGenerate
Damon K. Jones, North East Region President, National Black Police Association
Rev. Michael Tino, President of the Unitarian Universalist Allies for Racial Equity and Minister at the UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester County
Julie Davis Carran and Rev. Odinga Lawrence Maddox, Co-Chairs, Westchester Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute for Non-Violence
Ceil Lavan, for the Westchester Chapter of Women in Black
Nada Khader, for WESPAC Foundation