Lawyer: Teammates of football player killed by NY police say they were brutalized
Three college football players who saw a teammate get fatally shot by police outside a suburban bar were brutalized by officers and arrested when they tried to help their mortally wounded friend, their lawyer said Wednesday.
One player knows CPR and begged the police to let him try to save Danroy 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.
Kieran O’Leary, a spokesman for the Westchester County police, which made the arrests, 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, 20, of Easton, Mass., was killed early Sunday by gunshots fired through his windshield after police were called to a disturbance that spilled out of a bar about 25 miles north of New York City. Many of the estimated 150 people at the scene in a shopping center in Thornwood were students from Pace University’s campus in nearby Pleasantville, where the homecoming football game had been played on Saturday.
Police say Henry was parked in a fire lane outside the bar and sped off, hitting two officers, after a policeman knocked on his window. The father of one of Henry’s passengers denies that an officer was hit and said Henry thought he was following police instructions.
Henry’s relatives have announced they are skeptical of the police account and have hired civil rights attorney Michael Sussman.
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 Yves Delpeche, of Brooklyn, N.Y. 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. He said Delpeche had to be subdued with a stun gun. All were interfering with getting medical aid to the injured, he 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.”
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.
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.
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, a friend of Henry’s who was in the back seat of Henry’s car when Henry was shot. She would not discuss anything he said about what led to the shooting. But 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. But she said she did not know of any specific racial slurs or other bias expressed or demonstrated on Sunday.