NYPD Sergeant Shoots 66-Year-Old Black Woman Armed With a Bat – Public Outrage Sweeps Community

New evidence is still yet to be released on the NYPD shooting of Deborah Danner, with Sergeant Barry likely to escape disciplinary action

Deborah Danner

Nearly a month has passed since the NYPD shooting of 66-year old Deborah Danner, by Sergeant Hugh Barry, and still new information has yet to be released. Danner was a mentally ill black woman who allegedly lunged at Barry with a bat. The shooting sparked outrage in the community, and once again, highlighted the police use-of-force issues to the public consciousness.

Officers were dispatched to an emotionally disturbed person call last month. The target was the Bronx address of Deborah Danner. Police had been to Danner’s residence before, so they were fully aware that rather than her being a criminal, she was an elderly woman with emotional problems.

Deborah Danner

Officers arrived on scene shortly after neighbors called in a disturbance. Sgt. Barry found Danner alone in her bedroom, holding a pair of scissors. He challenged her to drop the scissors, which she did. At this point, Danner picked up a baseball bat and ran towards Sgt. Barry. Barry fired his gun twice, striking her in the chest and abdomen. Shortly after, Danner was pronounced dead.

The shooting sparked outrage among even the top NYPD brass, as well as the mayor, Bill de Blasio. Police commissioner James O’Neill told the media “That’s not how it’s supposed to go. It’s not how we train; our first obligation is to preserve life, not to take a life when it can be avoided.” Oneill went on to say “We do have policies and procedures for handling emotionally disturbed people, and it looks like some of those procedures weren’t followed.” While everyone along the chain appears to be outraged – and for good reason – it’s unlikely that Barry will face any discipline, and it is certain he won’t be charged.

The first problem with this shooting stems from a violation of a very clear police practice. When an officer deals with a subject, their height, weight and potential threat level are all considered when examining what is known as officer-subject factors. A 200-pound male officer could never justify shooting, or otherwise killing, an unarmed 100-pound woman, because as logic would dictate, a 200-pound man could easily subdue a 100-pound woman. Officer-subject factors are often ignored in many of today’s use-of-force cases against police – a convenient oversight on their part. Now, what if you add a baseball bat to the same equation? Should a 200-pound man be able to subdue a 66-year-old frail woman without having to shoot her? The answer is, undoubtedly, yes. The problem is the framework, which allows for police to shoot armed subjects, but not recognize officer-subject factors as significant, due to the threat to life. Such is the case here. It isn’t really a gray area, more of a loophole.

Police Commissioner condemned the shooting at a press conference.

Another city official, Ruben Diaz, Jr., the President of the Bronx borough, made a statement. “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.”

Despite the calls for justice, it’ll be highly unlikely that Sgt. Barry will face discipline any time soon. This is yet another case of a cop who killed just because he could, not because he should.

Sources: Huffington Post, The Root.

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