NYPD Sergeant found not guilty in shooting death of mentally ill Black woman
The trial of Sargeant Hugh Barry, an eight-year veteran of the NYPD who shot and killed Deborah Danner in October 2016, ended today. After a long and trying time for Danner’s family and friends, the disappointing verdict – not guilty, was announced today.
Barry faced charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for the death of Danner; however, the judge determined that the prosecution did not prove that the police officer was guilty.
Deborah Danner was characterized as a mentally ill woman suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Barry responded to a call of a disturbance by Danner herself. Upon arrival, Danner was said to be agitated, naked and armed with scissors. Barry claims he persuaded her to put down the scissors but then proceeded to pick up a baseball bat and started swinging at him.
Barry says he fired twice to defend himself, killing 66-year-old Danner.
What went wrong
During the trial, Officer Camilo Rosario, who was also present during Barry’s fatal encounter with Danner, said he had a clear view of the incident and testified that Barry fired the two shots before the elderly woman even swung the bat.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill were not convinced that the shooting of Deborah Danner was justified at the time, calling her death “a failure of the NYPD” as protocols for dealing with the mentally challenged were not met during the incident. Mayor de Blaiso expressed his discontent in an emotional press conference emphasizing the use of deadly forced is only deemed necessary in dire situations.
After the shooting Barry was placed on modified duty and stripped of his gun and badge.
Justice system fails its most vulnerable
According to NBC New York, Deborah Danner was an advocate for mental disorder and wrote an “eloquent essay on living with schizophrenia in which she agonized over the deaths of mentally ill people like herself at the hands of the police.”
After the judge rendered his ruling Jennifer Danner, Deborah’s sister, reportedly appeared tearful as she rested her head on another woman’s shoulder in the court room.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark did not seem pleased with the ruling.
“The judge has issued his verdict in this case,” she said in a statement according to the NY Daily News. “We are disappointed but we accept his decision. However, I believe the death of Deborah Danner illustrates the larger issue of how we need changes in the way we address people with mental health issues.”
Danner’s family has filed a federal lawsuit against the city.