Death of bat-wield­ing woman draws re­buke

NYC mayor crit­i­cal of of­fi­cer’s ac­tions in fa­tal shoot­ing

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND NATION - By Tom Hays

NEW YORK — A po­lice sergeant has been stripped of his gun and badge in the af­ter­math of what of­fi­cials on Wed­nes­day la­beled a pre­ventable tragedy: the killing of a men­tally ill, 66-year-old woman in a bed­room in her New York City apart­ment.

The vic­tim, Deb­o­rah Dan­ner, “should be alive right now, pe­riod,” Mayor Bill de Bla­sio said in an un­usu­ally swift and harsh re­buke of an of­fi­cer in­volved in a fa­tal shoot­ing.

“If the pro­to­cols had been fol­lowed, she would be alive,” he added at a news con­fer­ence. “It’s as sim­ple as that.”

Ear­lier, New York Po­lice De­part­ment Com­mis­sioner James O’Neill told re­porters that his de­part­ment “failed” by not us­ing means other than deadly force to sub­due Dan­ner as she al­legedly wielded a base­ball bat.

“That’s not how it’s sup­posed to go,” O’Neill said. “It’s not how we train; our first obli­ga­tion is to pre­serve life, not to take a life when it can be avoided.”

The head of the po­lice union rep­re­sent­ing sergeants, Ed Mullins, said the shoot­ing was self-de­fense and be­moaned what he char­ac­ter­ized as a rush to judg­ment led by the mayor.

“They’re tak­ing the weak po­lit­i­cal spot and blam­ing the sergeant for ev­ery­thing,” Mullins said. “I’m not sur­prised. He’s [de Bla­sio’s] up for elec­tion next year.”

He added: “We don’t have due process.”

The shoot­ing oc­curred after of­fi­cers re­sponded to a 911 call about an emo­tion­ally dis­turbed per­son at about 6:15 p.m. lo­cal time Tues­day when they en- New York City Mayor Bill de Bla­sio said Wed­nes­day that Deb­o­rah Dan­ner, 66, “should be alive right now, pe­riod.” coun­tered Dan­ner in her sev­enth-floor apart­ment in the Bronx, po­lice said.

Po­lice had been called to Dan­ner’s home sev­eral times be­fore to take her to the hospi­tal dur­ing psy­chi­atric episodes, the mayor said.

Each of those times, she was taken away safely. This time, some­thing went wrong, the mayor said.

Sgt. Hugh Barry, an eightyear vet­eran of the force, per­suaded Dan­ner to drop a pair of scis­sors she had been hold­ing, but when she picked up the bat and tried to strike him, he fired two shots that hit her torso, po­lice said.

Dan­ner’s sis­ter, Jen­nifer, was in the hall­way, out­side the apart­ment, wait­ing to ac­com­pany her sis­ter to the hospi­tal, when the shots rang out, said the mayor, who spoke to her Wed­nes­day.

“It was a very painful con­ver­sa­tion to say the least,” he said. “I told her how sorry I was.”

Dan­ner “had been sick since she was in col­lege,” her cousin, Wal­lace Cooke Jr., said Wed­nes­day.

Cooke, 74, a re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer, said of­fi­cers had been at her apart­ment “mul­ti­ple, mul­ti­ple times over the years.” His cousin had re­cently stopped tak­ing her med­i­ca­tion, but “that’s not an ex­cuse to be dead.”

Barry was placed on desk duty while the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice de­ter­mines whether the case falls un­der its au­thor­ity to in­ves­ti­gate po­lice shoot­ing of un­armed civil­ians.

Po­lice of­fi­cials were in­ves­ti­gat­ing whythe sergeant chose not to use a stun gun he was car­ry­ing or re­treat and wait for backup from spe­cially trained emer­gency ser­vice of­fi­cers.

New York City po­lice re­sponds to tens of thou­sand of calls about emo­tion­ally dis­turbed peo­ple each year.

Of­fi­cers and com­man­ders, Barry among them, re­ceive train­ing on how to deal with men­tally ill peo­ple that in­cludes in­struc­tion in tech­niques to “de-es­ca­late” a sit­u­a­tion, rather than re­sort to force.

“We need to know why this of­fi­cer did not fol­low his train­ing,” de Bla­sio said.

BEBETO MATTHEWS/AP

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