An NYPD sergeant has been placed on modified duty after killing a woman in a Bronx apartment building yesterday evening. The officer had a Taser but did not use it, and a number of city officials are now demanding answers. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, "While I certainly understand the hard work that our police officers undertake to keep the streets of our city safe every single day, I also know what excessive force looks like."
Assistant Chief Larry W. Nikunen, Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Bronx, said that officers responded to a 911 call about an emotionally disturbed person at 630 Pugsley Avenue around 6:06 p.m. and were directed to the 7th floor, "where a neighbor made a complaint regarding a female who was acting in an irrational manner." From the preliminary NYPD statement:
At approximately 6:15 p.m. a uniformed sergeant entered apartment 7E to investigate. The sergeant encountered a 66 year-old female in a bedroom who was armed with a pair of scissors. He engaged the female in conversation and persuaded her to put down the scissors. After putting down the scissors the female subject approached the sergeant and grabbed a baseball bat. As she attempted to strike the sergeant he fired two shots from his service revolver striking her in the torso.
She was transported to Jacobi Hospital where she was later pronounced deceased. This incident is currently being investigated by the Force Investigation Division. A full review of the facts and circumstances of this incident will be conducted.
The woman, Deborah Danner, reportedly had schizophrenia, and police had been called her to apartment before.
WABC 7 reports, "Officials said police were there practically once a month when she was not taking her medication."
One neighbor told NBC New York that after a recent incident, police "brought her out in a straitjacket, she was hollering and screaming." Another told WCBS 2, "The lady be hollering, screaming. You think she’d be in there wrestling with somebody, talking very violently... Knowing this lady, they was probably defending themselves. I didn’t see it, but they were probably defending themselves."
The sergeant, Hugh Barry, an eight-year veteran, had a stun gun. Nikunen said, "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."
Diaz, Jr. said in a statement, "Tonight’s shooting of a mentally disturbed, 66-year-old woman in the 43rd Precinct is an outrage, especially given the New York Police Department’s knowledge of this woman’s history and the police officer’s possession of a stun gun... 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."
"That is totally unacceptable," he said, adding, "Tonight’s incident is all too reminiscent of the case of Eleanor Bumpurs and a much darker time for this city and this nation in terms of police/community relations." Bumpurs, an emotionally disturbed 66-year-old black woman, had repeatedly refused to be evicted from her apartment; when she threatened officers with a knife, a cop fatally shot her twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. The officer was indicted for manslaughter, but a state judge dismissed the indictment.
Ed Mullins, head of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association, told the Daily News that Sgt. Barry's placement on modified duty was "purely political." He added, "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 an interview with the Post, Mullins said, "This is a totally legal shooting."
Officials are asking for AG Eric Schneiderman to investigate the incident. Public Advocate Letitia James said, "While we are still learning details about this evening's incident, I am renewing my call to expand the use of non-lethal use of force by the NYPD. I look forward to working with the NYPD toward common sense criminal justice measures that protect our police officers and the communities they serve."