A New York cop shot and killed a 66-year-old Black woman wielding a bat in the Bronx on Tuesday evening. Police say they will investigate why the officer used lethal force, reports the New York Daily News.
An upstairs neighbor called police on Deborah Danner around 6 p.m. on Tuesday night, saying she was behaving in “an irrational manner.” The report notes that police were familiar with Danner, and another neighbor told the News that police had taken her out of her apartment several times, once in a straight jacket. The neighbor also noted a dramatic decline in the woman’s mental health after her mother died several years ago.
Eight-year veteran Sgt. Hugh Barry was reportedly one of the officers who entered Danner’s seventh-floor apartment on Tuesday and found her in a bedroom holding a pair of scissors and threatening cops (one has to wonder how they got in the house if she was in her bedroom).
Next, police sources say the woman grabbed a wooden bat and lunged a “close distance of an amount of feet” across the room at Barry.
“As she attempted to strike the sergeant, he fired two shots from his service revolver, striking her in the torso,” said Assistant Chief Larry Nikunen, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Bronx.
Danner was taken to the hospital, where she died at 7:15 p.m.
Many question why Barry went for his gun.
“The sergeant was armed with a Taser. It was not deployed, and the reason it was not deployed will be part of the investigation and review,” Nikunen said.
The News reports that Barry was placed on modified duty and stripped of his gun and shield pending the outcome of the investigation.
Some politicians are decrying the tragic situation.
“This elderly woman was known to the police department, yet the officer involved in this shooting failed to use discretion to either talk her down from her episode or, barring that, to use his stun gun,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said.
Not surprisingly, the police union is backing Officer Barry, calling the move to suspend him “political.”
“And it was indicated to me by numerous people at the scene, within the department that this was coming from Chief (of Patrol Terence) Monahan, and that this was purely political,” said Ed Mullins, president of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association. “I understand that Ruben Diaz has put out some statement questioning what took place with the Taser. And basically what we have now is a Monday morning quarterback decision.”
In its comprehensive coverage of police killings across the country, the Washington Postreports that a quarter of these deaths by police occur when someone is in the throes of a mental health crisis.
Many advocates believe that the use of lethal force can be prevented if police received better training in de-escalation tactics and identifying mental health crises.