In the latest incident of police killings of Black people in the U.S., a New York officer Tuesday evening shot and killed 66-year-old Deborah Danner, who was mentally ill, because she was waving a baseball bat at him to which he responded with deadly force instead of following protocol and firing his taser gun to neutralize her.
Officers received an emergency call at about 6:00 p.m. local time Tuesday from a neighbor who said Danner was acting irrationally, police said.
When police Sergeant Hugh Barry, who is white and an eight-year veteran of the New York Police Department, entered her apartment in the Bronx area, he found Danner clutching scissors in a bedroom, police said.
Barry convinced Danner to put the scissors down, but she then picked up a baseball bat and charged at him, police claimed. Danner tried to strike the sergeant and he fired two shots from his service revolver, striking her in the torso, police added.
The NYPD is investigating and will look into why the sergeant did not use a taser against Danner instead of opening fire, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday in a news conference.
Despite Barry’s unlawful killing of the elderly Black woman, he has not been fired or suspended. He has been put on “modified duty,” according to the mayor.
“The shooting of Deborah Danner is tragic and it is unacceptable. It should never have happened. It’s as simple as that. It should never have happened,” de Blasio said. Danner was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Police had previously been to her apartment to handle similar disturbances, he added.
“We did fail and we need to say it out loud and the people deserve to hear it. What we need to know is why this officer did not follow his training and did not follow those protocols.”
The fatal shooting of Danner follows a string of incidents that have put law enforcement across the U.S. under heightened scrutiny over the use of lethal force, especially against Black and Latino people as well as the mentally ill.
Barry had received some training under a new department program that includes de-escalation techniques.
The Bronx Borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., a former state lawmaker, called the shooting an “outrage.”
“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,” Diaz said in a statement. “That is totally unacceptable.”
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