Jennifer Millman

Bronx District Attorney Calls for Grand Jury in Deadly NYPD Shooting of Deborah Danner

The NYPD sergeant and eight-year department veteran who shot Deborah Danner in October was placed on modified duty

What to Know

  • Deborah Danner, 66, was shot and killed by a uniformed sergeant in her Bronx apartment in October
  • The NYPD had been responding to a 911 call complaining about Danner, who was described as emotionally disturbed
  • Police are conducting an investigation into the shooting, including why a stun gun wasn't deployed

The Bronx district attorney says she will ask a judge to convene a grand jury to consider whether criminal charges should be brought against the NYPD sergeant who shot 66-year-old Deborah Danner to death in her apartment earlier this year. 

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said there was no timetable for the grand jury to be impaneled.

"I have pledged to the people of the Bronx to conduct a thorough, fair investigation into this matter and I believe that presenting the evidence to a grand jury will best accomplish that goal," Clark said in a statement Monday. "It is important to determine exactly what happened in this tragic incident."

Danner, who was schizophrenic, was shot Oct. 18 by NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry, an eight-year department veteran, who encountered the woman naked and armed with scissors in her Bronx apartment after responding to a 911 call about a disturbance. He persuaded her to put down the scissors but as he was coaxing her out of the room, she picked up the baseball bat and charged him.

Barry fired two shots, killing her.

Top city officials, including Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill, condemned the shooting. Calling Danner's death a failure of the NYPD, O'Neill said it was clear that some police protocols involving the treatment of mentally ill individuals were not adhered to in Danner's case. 

In an emotional press conference in the days after the shooting, de Blasio said officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation, and, he said, that standard clearly was not met in Danner's case. 

"Deborah Danner should be alive right now, period," de Blasio said in October. "Something went horribly wrong here." 

Among the questions at the center of the investigation: why Barry didn't deploy his stun gun and why he didn't hold Danner at bay and contain the situation until members of the Emergency Services Unit arrived, as he and thousands of other NYPD officers are tried to do, de Blasio said. 

Less than five years before her death, Danner scribed a searing, eloquent essay on living with schizophrenia in which she agonized over the deaths of mentally ill people like her at the hands of police. 

"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," she wrote in the 2012 piece. 

Danner called for "teaching law enforcement how to deal with the mentally ill in crisis," training the city has emphasized in the last two years.

Barry was placed on modified duty immediately after the shooting, stripped of his gun and badge. 

At the time, the president of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association, Ed Mullins, said Barry acted as he did in fear for his own life and the lives of others.

Neither the union nor Barry could immediately be reached for comment on Clark's decision to convene a grand jury.

Barry has been the subject of two lawsuits in 2010 and 2011 alleging brutality, according to court records. The first was settled for $25,000 and the second for $10,000.

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