On October 18, 2016, New York Police Department (NYPD) sergeant Hugh Barry fatally shot Deborah Danner. Today (February 15), Judge Robert Neary found Barry not guilty on charges of second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
As previously reported by Colorlines:
A neighbor called 911 to report that Danner was, as NYPD officials put it, “emotionally disturbed.” The victim’s sister, Jennifer Danner, was there. She expected officers to help take her sibling—who had schizophrenia—to the hospital, as they had on several previous occasions. But Barry, who has been with the NYPD for eight years, reports that he shot the Black woman in the torso two times because she charged at him with a baseball bat and he feared for his life.
“[Jennifer Danner] said she’d seen it done the right way and expected it to be done that way this time as well. You can only imagine the pain she feels having had to stand there and hear the shots fired and the recognition coming over her that she had lost her sister,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told press this morning. “Something went horribly wrong here. It’s quite clear our officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation and it’s very hard for any of us to see that that standard was met here.”
Officer Barry had a Taser, but opted to use his gun.
At the time of the shooting, Police Commissioner James O’Neill told press that Barry’s actions did not match up with his training, and that he did not follow proper procedure for interacting with people with mental illnesses.
That declaration did not seem to impact the judge, who said that the prosecution did not meet the required burden of proof for a guilty verdict, per NBC New York.
The Sergeants Benevolent Association posted a tweet that greeted the verdict with “joy and relief,” while a spokesperson for Danner’s family said they are “devastated” that the White officer would not be punished for killing the 66-year-old Black woman.
This verdict is another injustice perpetrated in the unjust killing of Deborah Danner, with the criminal justice system once again failing to hold a police officer accountable. The continued killings of New Yorkers in emotional distress by police are at chronic levels during Mayor de Blasio’s tenure, seemingly occurring once every couple of months, and there is an unacceptable disconnect with the apparent investment in mental health resources touted by this administration. Police officers should not be in charge during these situations, and the testimony during this trial makes clear that Ms. Danner—like many others in similar distress—did not want to deal with police officers within her own home. Since the mayor and police commissioner argued Sergeant Barry failed to follow protocol, and doing so led to his killing Ms. Danner, the NYPD should expeditiously fire Sergeant Barry.