Senator Edward J. Markey on Monday evening reached out to the parents of Danroy “DJ” Henry, a young Black man from Easton killed by police 10 years ago, to apologize after Henry’s father contended that the Malden Democrat failed to help seek justice for their son.
“My wife and I came to you 10 years ago, as grieving parents, asking for your help with our son’s murder in upstate New York,” along with other politicians, Danroy Henry Sr. said in a video addressed to Markey and posted to Twitter Monday. “You were the only one who didn’t act. Not only did you not act — in any way — but we felt like you were just dismissing us, using, even, the term ‘colored’ in the conversation.”
Asked for comment by the Globe, Markey’s campaign sent a statement in which the senator expressed empathy for the family’s pain and noted he, along with other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, called on Department of Justice in 2014 to open a federal investigation into DJ’s murder.
“I strongly support the Henry family’s efforts to reopen the case of the murder of their beloved son DJ Henry. I cannot fathom the pain that they must be feeling watching news about all of the families who have had loved ones murdered by the police,” Markey said. “I am again calling on the Attorney General to do his job and offer justice to the Henry family and open this long-overdue investigation.”
Markey said that he has reached out to the Henrys “to offer my sincerest apologies, and to pledge to them my complete support to take action on this case. I am fully at their disposal, and hope to work with them.”
A spokeswoman for Markey declined to specify what Markey planned to apologize to the Henrys for. She said Markey does not recall using the term “colored.”
Henry and his wife Angela are supporting Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III in his Democratic primary bid to unseat Markey. They shot a video of support for Kennedy’s campaign in early July, detailing their yearslong push for justice for their son, and the support and assistance they said Kennedy has provided them since they first met him in his Taunton office in 2014.
Kennedy brought them as his guests to the State of the Union in 2015.
The Henrys’ push to get prosecutors to re-examine DJ Henry’s case has gained fresh attention in the wake of widespread protests against systemic racism and demands for criminal justice reform following the police killing of George Floyd earlier this summer. Celebrities including Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Kerry Washington are among those who signed a letter to US Attorney General William Barr asking for the Department of Justice to consider new evidence and whether racial bias played a role in a police officer shooting and killing DJ Henry, who was a junior at Pace University in New York at the time.
On Oct. 18, 2010, police were called to disperse a group of patrons outside of Finnegan’s Grill in Westchester County, after a homecoming party. An investigation by prosecutors determined that Henry, a Pace College football player, was shot as he was driving away from the restaurant.
A police officer knocked on the car window, and a passenger in the car with Henry told investigators they thought officers wanted them to move the vehicle. As Henry pulled forward, police yelled for him to stop. At one point, Officer Aaron Hess stepped in front of the car, ended up on the hood, and fired several shots through the windshield.
In the video addressed to Markey on Monday, Henry said he is reacting to a recent TV ad in the primary race, in which Markey pitches himself “as a leader in the fight for justice.” But the family has not heard from Markey since they met with him in person, Henry continued, “so I’m not exactly certain, sir, how that applies to real people like us who were counting on you to do the right thing then, and have been waiting for you to get engaged on this up to this point.”
In an interview with the Globe last month, Henry recalled meeting with Markey around the same time he and his wife met with other lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Kennedy, as well as members of Congress from New York. While Henry remembered the meetings taking place 10 years ago, some of them necessarily would have happened more recently. Warren and Kennedy both took office in January 2013.
A spokeswoman for Markey said he met with the Henrys in May 2014.
Henry said that the meeting took place at a restaurant in Malden and Markey ate his lunch, didn’t take any notes, and didn’t seem interested in what they were telling him. It was the only meeting with a lawmaker where he walked away feeling dismissed, Henry said.
He also said he remembered Markey using the term “colored” to refer to Black people, saying something to the effect of how incidents “involving colored people and police, these are hard.”
“My wife and I looked at each other, [and thought] this is absurd,” he recalled.
Henry said the contrast between Kennedy’s commitment to their cause and Markey’s disinterest is why he and his wife felt motivated to endorse Kennedy.
“I’m going to line up behind the guy who’s been living this, not the guy who’s kind of late to the dance and says he’s been hired to be the DJ,” he said.