Five years after an NYPD sergeant fatally shot a schizophrenic woman in crisis and three years after he was acquitted for her murder, the officer will undergo a long-delayed disciplinary hearing that could cost him his job – or at least some vacation days.
Sergeant Hugh Barry, 31, was acquitted of murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in 2018 for the fatal shooting of Deborah Danner, 66, during a police welfare check at her Bronx apartment in October 2016 – an incident that fueled debate over the police-first response to the city’s mental health crisis.
Barry was suspended during the criminal case and put on modified duty after the shooting – earning about $152,000 per year, according to the New York Times.
Now, he will be tried on the administrative charges for exercising bad tactical judgment and supervising the situation improperly.
‘I am hoping to get some justice for my sister’s death,’ said Jennifer Danner, 72, Deborah’s sister who rode up to the victim’s apartment with Barry in the elevator and was in the hallway when she was shot, in an interview with the Times.
‘I would like to see him fired.’
Sergeant Hugh Barry (pictured center), 31, was acquitted for murder in 2018 for the fatal shooting of Deborah Danner, 66, during a police welfare check at her Bronx apartment in October of 2016
‘One of the reasons that [schizophrenia is] a curse is that the nature of the beast is a complete loss of control – of your emotions, you intellect, your instinct, your common sense – basically your sense of yourself,’ wrote Danner during one of her periods of clarity in a 2012 essay entitled ‘Living with Schizophrenia’
The hearing will take place over three non-consecutive weeks, and may not reach a verdict until Mayor Bill de Blasio, who fiercely criticized Barry’s actions in 2016, leaves office in 2022.
Barry’s lawyer, Andrew Quinn, told the Times that his client did nothing wrong, and said his client may be dismissed because de Blasio is targeting him for ‘political reasons’:
‘We don’t anticipate a good outcome,’ Quinn said, ‘not on the merits, but on the politics.’
The 2016 killing drew reproach from both de Blasio and then-police commissioner James O’Neill. Although NYPD prosecutors filed a lawsuit against Barry in 2016, the disgraced officer countersued, alleging O’Neill was prejudiced against him.
‘That’s not how it’s supposed to go. That’s not how we train,’ O’Neill said in 2016. ‘My commitment as police commissioner is to find out what went wrong and why. What is clear in this one instance – we failed.’
Years later, current Commissioner Dermot Shea will make the final call in Barry’s administrative sentencing, which could range from a loss in vacation days to dismissal.
Shea he has yet to comment publicly on the matter.
Barry persuaded Danner, who was in the thick of a mental health crisis, to drop a pair of scissors she had been using to cut paper while she sat on her bed – then, she picked up a baseball bat and brandished it at him.
Although he had a taser, Barry shot her twice in the torso. In court, Barry said he feared for his own life when he fired his weapon.
Officers had been called to her home several times before to take her to the hospital during psychiatric episodes and had been able to take her away safely, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the time.
Barry entered her Castle Hill apartment at 630 Pugsley Avenue (pictured) with two EMTs, three cops and Danner’s sister Jennifer. The group tried to coax Danner, who was in the midst of a mental health crisis, out of the apartment before he ‘made a grab for her,’ the Times said.
Barry entered her Castle Hill apartment with two EMTs, three cops and Danner’s sister. The group tried to coax Danner, who was in the midst of a mental health crisis, out of the apartment before he ‘made a grab for her,’ the Times said.
The confrontation became a case study for proponents looking to find an alternative to New York’s police-first strategy to combating the city’s mental health crisis.
After it was revealed that Barry hadn’t undergone crisis intervention training, protests were sparked and more high-ranking officers received the department’s de-escalation course, according to the Gothamist.
New York City police respond to tens of thousands of calls about emotionally disturbed people each year, officials said.
Officers and commanders, including sergeants, have been gradually getting training on how to deal with mentally ill people that includes instruction in techniques to ‘de-escalate’ a situation, rather than resort to force.
Danner had been afflicted with schizophrenia for 40 years, since she was in her thirties, and hospitalized 10 times in that period.
‘One of the reasons that [schizophrenia is] a curse is that the nature of the beast is a complete loss of control – of your emotions, you intellect, your instinct, your common sense – basically your sense of yourself,’ wrote Danner during one of her periods of clarity in an essay entitled ‘Living with Schizophrenia.’
A specially-trained team, the city’s Emergency Services Unit, had broken into Danner’s home and brought her to the hospital after previous incidents. De Blasio criticized Barry for not waiting for the ESU to arrive.
Deborah Danner is pictured in 2005 alongside then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg (pictured left) at a celebration for the 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Danner had been afflicted with schizophrenia for 40 years, since she was in her thirties, and hospitalized 10 times in that period. She wrote about his experiences with schizophrenia in a 2012 essay entitled ‘Living with Schizophrenia,’ excerpted here
Hauntingly, Danner decried the ‘all too frequent’ deaths of the mentally ill at the hands of law enforcement in her 2012 essay
‘It should never have happened, simple as that. The NYPD’s job is to protect life,’ de Blasio said after the 2016 incident, adding, ‘Deborah Danner should be alive right now, period.’
Hauntingly, Danner decried the ‘all too frequent’ deaths of the mentally ill at the hands of law enforcement in her 2012 essay.
‘We are all aware of the all too frequent news stories about the mentally ill who come up against law enforcement instead of mental health professionals and end up dead,’ Danner hauntingly foreshadowed in January of 2012.
‘It has never been lost on me that old adage, “there by the Grace of God go I” could easily apply to me.’