NYPD Officer Charged with Murder for Shooting of 66-Year-Old Mentally Ill Women
The incident began when neighbors in an apartment building in the Castle Hill neighborhood called 911 because Ms. Danner was acting erratically. This was not the first-time the police had been called to her apartment - Ms. Danner had a history of schizophrenia and officers had been required to take her to the hospital several times due to psychiatric episodes. In spite of this, NYPD Sgt. Barry ignored department procedure by rushing into the apartment without taking time to assess the situation and gather all of the critical information. The sergeant found Ms. Danner in her nightgown and brandishing a pair of scissors, which he convinced her to put down. When Ms. Danner then grabbed a baseball bat, the sergeant opened fire twice, fatally wounding Ms. Danner.
Ms. Danner had long feared her death would come at the hands of police. In 2012, she penned an essay in which she wrote of her struggles with schizophrenia and her fears of being the victim of police brutality. She agonized over the deaths of mentally ill individuals at the hands of law enforcement, writing about the frequent news stories involving mentally ill individuals, like herself, being fatally wounded after they were confronted by police officers.
The NYPD has specific ‘emergency service units’ that consist of officers specifically trained in how to deal with emotionally disturbed individuals. In addition, the NYPD has specific procedures that all officers are to follow when confronting an emotionally disturbed person. These procedures include establishing a “zone of safety,” avoiding confrontation, and retreating while waiting for specialized help to arrive. Finally, all officers are trained to make use of less-lethal options if they have to resort to the use of force, such as a taser or mace.
In the case of Ms. Danner, the sergeant in question had both a taser and mace on his person, but opted to use his firearm instead. This is not the first time the sergeant has been accused of police misconduct, having been sued in two prior lawsuits. Following the shooting, Sgt. Barry was stripped of his badge and placed on modified duty, as well as being charged with second degree murder, first and second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.