New York City police officer charged with murder in woman's shooting

Reuters News
Posted: May 31, 2017 3:16 PM

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City police sergeant was charged on Wednesday with murdering an emotionally disturbed black woman whom he shot inside her apartment last year, police said.

Sergeant Hugh Barry, 31, was arrested on charges of murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of Deborah Danner, the New York Police Department said.

Ahmed Nasser, a police department spokesman, declined to comment on the arrest beyond confirming details of the charges.

Danner's shooting drew criticism from Mayor Bill de Blasio at the time and was seen as one of a string of episodes across the United States where police officers, who are typically armed, have been criticized as using excessive force against black people and the mentally ill.

Barry, who is white, entered Danner's apartment on October 18, 2016, after a neighbor had called the police to say Danner was acting irrationally.

Barry found Danner, 66, clutching scissors in a bedroom, according to the original police account. He convinced her to put down the scissors. She then picked up a baseball bat and charged at him, trying to hit him, according to the police account. Barry shot her twice in the torso with his service revolver.

De Blasio told reporters last year that Danner was mentally ill, according to her sister, and that the police had previously been called to her apartment several times and taken her to the hospital without harm. "It should have never had happened," he said of the shooting.

Barry is due to appear in the Bronx Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon to face the charges, according to Melanie Dostis, a spokeswoman for the Bronx district attorney's office.

It was not immediately clear whether the sergeant has a lawyer.

Barry has been suspended without pay, according to Martin Brown, a police department spokesman.

James O'Neill, the city's police commissioner, said at the time that Barry, who had been with the department for eight years, had not followed the department's procedures for dealing with emotionally disturbed people. The sergeant was removed from patrol duties while the department investigated the shooting.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. called the arrest "a positive first step."

"Clearly, there were options available to Sgt. Barry which he failed to implement," Diaz said in a statement, "and his conduct in this case is by no means a reflection on the great work of the New York City Police Department and its dedicated members." 

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; editing by Diane Craft)