- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Authorities in New York City on Wednesday called the fatal shooting of a 66-year-old mentally ill woman by a police officer a tragedy that resulted from a failure to follow protocol.

“What is clear, in this one instance, we failed,” said police Commissioner James P. O’Neill, addressing the shooting during a news conference.

But the quick condemnation angered union officials, who say the rush to judgment has unfairly vilified the officer involved in the shooting.

Deborah Danner was killed Tuesday after attempting to strike an officer with a bat when police responded to her Bronx apartment for a report of a disturbance by an emotionally disturbed person.

The woman was known to police, as officers previously had responded to her apartment at least twice before to help get her to a hospital, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“The shooting of Deborah Danner is tragic and it is unacceptable. It should never have happened, it’s as simple as that,” Mr. de Blasio said Wednesday.

The mayor said the officer who opened fire inside the apartment, identified as Sgt. Hugh Barry, broke with police protocol for handling emotionally disturbed individuals.

The officer should have waited for the department’s Emergency Services Unit to arrive on scene to intervene, and he should have first opted to use his Taser when he was threatened rather than opening fire with his service weapon, said Mr. de Blasio.

“It’s quite clear that our officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation,” the mayor said. “It’s very hard for any of us to see that standard was met here. The sergeant involved last night had the training, had the tools, to deal with this situation in a different manner.”

Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said Sgt. Barry had tried to calm Ms. Danner and successfully got her to put down a pair of scissors that she was holding when officers first arrived on the scene.

As Sgt. Barry was trying to persuade Ms. Danner to come out of her bedroom to meet with medics who were in the hallway, she picked up a baseball bat, Mr. Mullins said. Ms. Danner ignored the officer’s commands to drop the bat and charged at the him, swinging the bat at his head, at which point Sgt. Hugh fired two shots, the union official said.

“By making such a blanket statement so early on in the investigation, Commissioner O’Neill was, in essence, denying due process by supplanting public opinion and putting an expectation of results in the minds of people who will ultimately investigate the case,” Mr. Mullins said. “It only served to exacerbate the effects of a tragic situation and was most certainly motivated by nothing other than political expediency.”

Sgt. Barry, an eight-year veteran, has been placed on modified duty.

Mr. de Blasio noted that in most instances, officers do respond correctly to calls for emotionally disturbed individuals — noting that the New York Police Department has received 128,781 such calls this year.

“Our officers, in the overwhelming major of instances, handled those situations well with tremendous skill and tremendous sensitivity,” the mayor said.

Mr. de Blasio vowed Wednesday that the shooting would be thoroughly investigated.

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