WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The police officer who shot and killed a college football player during a disturbance outside a bar in the New York suburbs says the student got drunk on liquor he bought before going to the bar.
Pleasantville Officer Aaron Hess has filed a lawsuit claiming the liquor store is liable for the injuries he suffered while responding to the disturbance, which gained attention when some witnesses said police overreacted. Amateur video of the chaos after the shooting was seen on national television and online.
"If you sell liquor to an underage person, you are responsible for what that underage person did," Hess' attorney, Mitchell Baker, said Monday.
Several calls to the liquor store, Briarcliff Wines & Liquors in Briarcliff Manor, were not answered Monday. No individual is named as a defendant. Baker said he had received a call Monday from a lawyer denying that Briarcliff Wines & Liquors was involved in such a sale. Calls to that lawyer were not immediately returned.
The Journal News reported in March that Henry and some friends bought liquor that same night from a different store in Briarcliff Manor. Baker said he was confident he was suing the right store.
Danroy Henry Jr., 20, of Easton, Mass., was killed Oct. 17 as he drove away from a disturbance that spilled out of a bar in Thornwood, N.Y., after the Pace University homecoming game. Autopsy results found Henry's blood-alcohol level above the legal driving limit, although his family insists he was not drunk.
Hess has said he was hit by the car, thrown onto the hood and had no choice but to fire to stop the driver. He was cleared by a grand jury but the Henry family is suing him.
Hess' lawsuit, filed Friday in White Plains, alleges that Henry bought an unspecified type of liquor at the store before going to the bar. It says he did not drink at the bar but returned to his car at least once to drink.
A disturbance at the bar spilled out into the parking lot and police were called. The lawsuit said that when patrons were told to leave, Henry drove off "at a high rate of speed" and hit Hess.
Baker said Hess suffered a broken kneecap and other injuries. He said the officer is in rehabilitation but it's not clear if he can return to police work.
The Henrys' lawsuit, filed in April, alleges that their son's car was moving at a reasonable speed and that Hess jumped in front of it and fired for no good reason.
Baker said he learned of the liquor purchase through "an independent investigation." The Westchester district attorney's office would not comment on whether grand jury evidence supported his claim.
"Mr. Henry was underage, he obtained alcohol at Briarcliff Wines & Liquors, and he got into this horrific car accident with Officer Hess," Baker said. "Mr. Henry was clearly intoxicated. If he were sober this never would have happened."