New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD chief James O’Neill have admitted that a cop who shot an elderly, mentally ill woman in her own home “failed” to follow proper procedure.
Deborah Danner, a 66 year-old black woman diagnosed with schizophrenia, lived in an apartment complex in the Bronx. Police had been called to her apartment before, but had always been able to escort her to the hospital without incident. This Tuesday, police responded to another 911 call from Danner's neighbor, reporting that the elderly woman was acting in an “irrational manner.”
When NYPD Sergeant Hugh Barry arrived on the scene, Danner was allegedly naked and holding a pair of scissors. Barry convinced her to put the scissors down and leave the apartment with him. At this point, Danner allegedly picked up a baseball bat and charged at Barry, who shot her twice with his service weapon. Danner was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
At a press conference on Wednesday, de Blasio said that Barry failed to follow police protocol specifically put in place to handle emotionally disturbed individuals. The police officer did not wait for the Emergency Services Unit, which is specially trained to deal with such individuals. The mayor also explained that Barry could have used his non-lethal Taser instead of his gun, or called for a hostage negotiator. "We did fail and we need to say it out loud," de Blasio said. "Deborah Danner should be alive right now. Period.”
“What is clear in this one instance, we failed,” O’Neill said on Wednesday. “That’s not how it’s supposed to go. It’s not how we train.” Barry has been stripped of his badge and gun pending further investigation. The 30-year-old cop has previously been named in two police-brutality lawsuits in which Barry and other cops were accused of beating two minority men in separate incidents.
In an essay describing a life spent coping with mental illness, Danner presciently wrote, “we are all aware of the all too frequent news stories about the mentally ill who come up against law enforcement, instead of mental health professionals, and end up dead.”