February 21, 2006

Stricter Law for Harming Officers To Be Tested Today

Special to the Sun

Under a new state law that increases the sentences for people who harm or attempt to harm a police officer, Damien Henry faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted of attempted murder.

He is expected to be arraigned in Kings County today for allegedly firing an Uzi at Brooklyn police officers last month.

Mr. Henry, 24, is the first person to be charged under the Crimes Against Police Act, a sentencing statute touted by the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes, and the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch.

At a press conference last month announcing the charges against Mr. Henry, Mr. Hynes said, "Some crimes are so terrible that people who commit them need to be taken off the streets for the rest of their lives. Anyone who fires a gun at a police officer must know that he is going to face serious prison time, and this law ensures Damien Henry will spend a long time behind bars."

Mr. Lynch said, "The new Crimes Against Police laws can make an important difference in the attitudes of criminals toward police. Vigorous prosecution under these laws will instill respect for the badge and uniform in the mind of the criminal community."

On January 21 at about 4 a.m., Mr. Henry returned to an East Flatbush club where he had been a patron earlier, the district attorney's office said. Bouncers allegedly found a gun in Mr. Henry's possession and refused to grant him entry to the Rag Top Lounge.

Mr. Henry fired at the club and then led police officers on a chase during which he shot at and missed the officers, the district attorney's office said.

Mr. Henry is charged with attempted murder and menacing a police officer, part of the Crimes Against Police Act signed into law by Governor Pataki in December.

Prior to the law's passage, Mr. Henry would have faced a lesser sentence of 15 years to life if he were convicted of the top charge.