Task force should have been called to deescalate standoff, says de Blasio
NYPD is in the public’s crosshairs after a 66-year-old mentally-ill woman was shot and killed by an officer from the 43rd Precinct in Castle Hill in her apartment Tuesday night.
On Wednesday afternoon, an agitated Mayor de Blasio held a press conference at City Hall, condemning the officer’s actions and demanding an investigation. The officer, Sergeant Hugh Berry, has been placed on modified duty, his badge and gun removed.
“The shooting of Deborah Danner is tragic and unacceptable,” de Blasio said. “It should have never happened. “Deborah Danner should be alive right now. Period.” De Blasio said he had just gotten off the phone with Danner’s sister, Jennifer Danner, who told him she was standing in the hallway when officers entered her sister’s apartment yesterday evening, and was shocked to hear gunshots.
“You can only imagine the pain she feels, having to hear the shots fired and the recognition coming over her that she had lost her sister,” the mayor said.
A little after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, officers responding to a call from 630 Pugsley Avenue in Castle Hill found Danner wielding a pair of scissors. According to the NYPD Berry found Danner alone in her apartment, and was able to get her to drop the scissors, but she then grabbed a baseball bat. He then shot her twice.
Danner was transported to Jacobi Medical Center where she was later pronounced dead.
Within hours of Danner’s death, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. issued a statement criticizing the officer’s actions.
“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,” he said.
Diaz Jr. said he went public with his comments immediately because, “It just felt like something really wrong went down last night.”
Before Tuesday, the mayor said, officers from the 43rd Precinct had been called to Danner’s apartment three or four times, during which they were able to deescalate confrontations and bring Danner to the hospital for appropriate treatment. Why the officer did not use his taser or wait for the Emergency Services Unit —the task force trained in dealing with the mentally-disturbed —will be investigated, he added.
“There was a real simple thing to do here. To defer to the experts. To just wait for them,” de Blasio said. “We need to know why this officer did not follow his training.”
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito agreed, something went dreadfully wrong. In a press release, she said, “I am deeply troubled by the killing of Deborah Danner. Use of deadly force must be a last resort and once again we have an instance where it was not. Deborah Danner should have been helped, not killed,” she said.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill promised a full investigation, saying officers mishandled the confrontation.
However, the president of the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, countered that elected officials should wait until an investigation is conducted before passing judgment .
“Commissioner O’Neill and Mayor de Blasio have jumped the gun on the comments they’ve made,” said Mullins, “The officer, like any citizen, has the right to due process.”
City officials weren’t the only ones to criticize the officer’s use of deadly force. Protesters gathered at City Hall on Tuesday night, and more protests are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
The hashtags #DeborahDanner and #SayHerName trended on Twitter.
“America failed you, too,” posted Mahogany L. Browne.
“This proves police are trained to shoot first and ask questions later,” posted material_grrl.
“Last night in the Bronx, NYPD went into an elderly woman’s house and shot her dead,” wrote Nick Malinowski.
Deborah Danner was an active poster on Twitter herself, and often spoke out against gun violence.
“VERY disappointed in the US Senate who declined passage of the Gun Control regulatory legislation NEEDED to control criminal gun violence in this Country,” she posted in 2013.
Three days ago, she tweeted, “Wherever this Life’s journey leads and whatever happens, I GO DOWN FIGHTING!!!!”
Diaz.Jr., said he worries that policing has not improved since the shooting of Eleanor Bumpurs, a mentally-ill black woman shot and killed by an NYPD officer in October 1984.
“Has anything changed in the last 32 years?” he said.
Updated on October 20.