How Did It Go Wrong? Loved Ones Seek Answers In Death Of Woman Shot By NYPD

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Just 24 hours after the fatal police shooting of an emotionally-disturbed woman in the Bronx, demonstrators were in the street demanding justice amid a heavy police presence.

The incident happened shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday inside 66-year-old Deborah Danner’s apartment at Jaime Towers Housing at 630 Pugsley Avenue in the Castle Hills section.

Police said NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry, who arrived at the home after receiving a call about an emotionally-disturbed person, found Danner with scissors in her hand.

“He engaged the female in conversation and persuaded her to put down the scissors,” said NYPD Assistant Chief Larry Nikunen. “The female subject approached the sergeant and grabbed a baseball bat. As she attempted to strike the sergeant, he fired two shots from his service revolver, striking her in the torso.”

Deborah Danner was shot and killed during an encounter with police in the Bronx (credit: Facebook)

Deborah Danner was shot and killed during an encounter with police in the Bronx (credit: Facebook)

A specially trained Emergency Services Unit squad was en route, but the deadly confrontation happened before they arrived, CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported.

Danner was immediately rushed to Jacobi Hospital, but did not survive.

De Blasio called the shooting tragic and unacceptable.

“It should never have happened,” de Blasio said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “The NYPD’s job is to protect life.”

He promised a full investigation.

“We are determined to get to the bottom of this incident, we are determined to seek justice and we are determined to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again in our city,” de Blasio said.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said it’s clear “we failed” and that “our first obligation is to preserve life, not to take a life if it can be avoided.”

He added that as commissioner, he is committed to “get to the answers of what happened.”

“We do have policies and procedures for handling emotionally-disturbed people,” he said. “It looks like that some of those procedures were not followed.”

Danner’s sister was in the hallway as the situation unfolded and never expected to hear gunshots ring out, de Blasio said.

“I was down the hall from my sister’s apartment when I saw officers rush in and I heard three gunshots,” Jennifer Danner said.

As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, Jennifer was her sister’s guardian.

“I asked if they shot my sister and received no response. After she was taken to Jacobi Hospital I was informed she had passed away,” she said.

According to her family, Danner had been dealing with mental illness for decades and police had responded to similar calls in the past. Each of those times, Danner was taken away safely.

“In those other instances, the NYPD successfully removed Deborah from the apartment and they went off to the hospital,” de Blasio said. “Something went horribly wrong here.”

“Deborah Danner should be alive right now. Period,” the mayor said. “If the protocols had been followed, she would be alive. It’s as simple as that.”

As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, her cousin Wallace Cooke Jr., a former NYPD officer, said Danner was a nice woman who suffered from schizophrenia and often refused medication.

“Debbie was sick,” Cooke said. “She was in college and she was a very smart, book-wise person, and she don’t deserve to be dead.”

Neighbors also said she had a history of erratic behavior.

“The lady be hollering, screaming,” Raphelle Gundy said. “You think she’d be in there wrestling with somebody, talking very violently.”

Police said the sergeant was armed with a Taser, which was never deployed. Now, Black Lives Matter activists and members of the community want accountability.

“It’s disturbing that police do not de-escalate these situations,” said Black Lives Matter activist Hawk Newsome. “They have Tasers, they have mace. Why is it that people always end up dead?”

“It’s not about rallies, it’s about programs that need to be set in place by the NYPD,” said resident Paul Nickerson.

“I don’t why they didn’t use a Taser,” another neighbor told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “It makes no sense.”

In a statement, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. condemned the shooting.

“This elderly woman was known to the police department, yet the officer involved in this shooting failed to use discretion to either talk her down from her episode or, barring that, to use his stun gun,” Diaz said. “That is totally unacceptable.”

Public Advocate Letitia James said she was also “deeply concerned.”

“I am calling for a swift and thorough investigation into this tragic incident and for the findings to be released publicly,” James said in a statement. “While we are still learning details about this evening’s incident, I am renewing my call to expand the use of non-lethal use of force by the NYPD.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton called the shooting “atrocious.”

“The need for an overhaul in police training and a review of those qualified to become police officers is apparent and must be dealt with,” Sharpton said. “O’Neill’s statements were good and responsible but should be the beginning of the overhaul and systemic change, not the conclusion of this case.”

Barry had participated in a new training regiment that includes de-escalation, de Blasio said.

“We need to know why this officer did not follow his training and did not follow those protocols,” de Blasio said. “There were obviously other options here.”

O’Neill said one of the things officials will be looking at is why the sergeant didn’t use his Taser, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

“It’s not enough to say that the vast majority of cases, we get it right, because any one life lost is a precious life,” he said.

Barry was taken to the hospital for an evaluation, which standard after a shooting, and has been placed on modified duty. He is an eight-year veteran of the NYPD with no prior shooting incidents.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office says it is “reviewing the incident to determine whether or not it falls within the attorney general’s jurisdiction under the executive order. We extend our deepest condolences to Ms. Danner’s family.”

Last year, the NYPD dealt with 150,000 calls about  emotionally disturbed people. O’Neill said while there are detailed plans in place for responding, “If we need to change the way we do business, we’ll do that.”

Tuesday’s shooting evoked memories of the 1984 police killing of 66-year-old Eleanor Bumpurs. The Bronx woman was fatally shot by police as she waved a knife at officers evicting her from her public housing apartment after falling behind in her rent.


One Comment

  1. BlueLivesMatter says:

    Bottom line is she shouldn’t have attacked with a baseball bat. Well played, officer.

  2. Mike says:

    The “cops” officially, publicly apologized, admitted mistakes, specified rules governing mistake, and put themselves in position to “discover”, investigate and bring to light all facts. ‘Nuff said.

  3. michael says:


  4. Public says:

    Why take her out, a 66year old woman in her own home?
    Where’s is dignity, respect, courtesy or is it just a meaningless motto?
    Again like a serial killer these ”accidents” continue, how come this doesn’t happen to other groups?
    What happened to the professional training to deal with everything, all that Federal money $$
    and for what!?!

  5. Word G Smith says:

    It’s all on DiBlasio, the brain dead socialist who rules over his mongrel majority. Unless this lunatic is removed, New York is doomed.

  6. aa58 says:

    I am a 60-year-old woman and there is no way on earth I could hold my own even with a bat against a man in his prime. Not even a civilian, let alone a professional who (presumably) has at least minimal training in some sort of hand-to-hand. For starters I’m slow. All he’d have to do is walk a little faster than I can to stay out of harm’s way. Even if by some miracle I managed to connect with what I was aiming at, my grip strength is so poor thanks to arthritis in my hands I can’t strike all that hard and would knock the bat right out of my own hands even if I did. I need a special tool to help me open a tight-fitting jar lid, for crying out loud. And yet I’m supposed to believe that this man was in fear for his life from a woman six years older than I am.

  7. Terry Mi says:

    So we have another stupid politician shooting from the hip.

    Yeah let’s not wait for all of the facts.

  8. PS says:

    All Police officers need to get in their cars and leave at the first sign of violence or possible confrontation. Upon returning to the station they should ask their superior officers how to handle the situation and even ask the mayors, DA’s and city councils to escort them back to the scene and demonstrate how to properly handle it. I don’t believe any police office should place their personal safety or individual wellbeing at risk. Since the political hacks have decided they know better let them put on the uniform and resolve the situations.

  9. Joe says:

    No need for a taser–the officer was already armed with the appropriate weapon: it’s called, step away, disengage. He’s a murderer.

  10. Bob Humphrey says:

    This what cops do. God only knows what might have happened had the cop not killed a crazy woman with a baseball bat. She might have wiped out all the residents of the building. Then everyone would be crying about how the cops didn’t kill her before she killed hundreds of others. The cop should get a medal and promotion for expeditiously solving the problem.

  11. Steve Nolan says:

    He should be charged with first-degree murder and not given a paid vacation

  12. The Facts says:

    Remember Eleanor Bumpers a few years ago. The hack politicians tried to throw the cops under the bus in that one too!

  13. Capt Frank O says:

    She was old how hard could she swing a bat? Anyone her say” PLEASE DONT SHOOT ME” ? Maybe tomorrow

  14. Kate says:

    Well Mayor, you have certainly prejudiced much by your comment. You should have just commented that the incident would be investigated and left it at that. How many times have you personally responded to a call for an emotionally disturbed person, been in extremely close quarters with a violent person? In 40 yrs. working in health care, it has happened to me many times. My Dad was NYPD for 30+ years, and in some of the city’s tough neighborhoods. Until you have walked in our shoes, mind your words. This is not just an event to shake your finger at one department. There has been enough on your watch to make people scratch their heads.

    1. Bob Humphrey says:

      Yep, cop was doing what cops get paid to do… thin the herd. The more crazy people they shoot the lower the cost to the public health dept. Besides, a baseball bat is a lethal weapon. She could easily have killed the cop with a hard drive into deep left field….

    2. Joe says:

      During your many times in extremely close quarters with a violent person, did you also commit murder?

  15. Reverand Run says:

    She was illin’.

  16. TC says:

    How many agencies failed this woman before the NYPD ever stepped foot on the scene? DOH (she had mental issues), ACS (maybe she was the victim of abuse as a child), DOB (maybe she was exposed to lead paint), DOE (was she ever diagnosed and treated as she went through the public school system) and the list goes on and on. The only agency accountable is the NYPD, the social agency of last resort, when all other agencies fail.

    Her family said she was dealing with mental health issues for years. Where was her family? Why didn’t they get her the help she needed? Why was she living on her own? Add her family to the list of people who failed her. Her “retired NYPD cousin” who gave the insightful comment “no excuse by nobody” was sure there quickly when he saw an opportunity to criticize his former employer.

    Her neighbors also knew she had a history of mental illness, where were they?

    There is a laundry list of people to blame here; however, its easiest to place blame on the police.

    1. Thomas says:

      TC, you are 100% correct. Here is a suggestion to out politicians, how about WAITING for the investigation to completed before you throw this sergeant under the bus.

    2. Joe says:

      Take your laundry list to the laundromat. This discussion is about a murderous cop.

  17. MPP says:

    He did try to de-escilate the situation, as per the article….“He engaged the female in conversation and persuaded her to put down the scissors,” said NYPD Assistant Chief Larry Nikunen. “The female subject approached the sergeant and grabbed a baseball bat. As she attempted to strike the sergeant, he fired two shots from his service revolver, striking her in the torso.”
    She was obviously extremely disturbed and violent, what was the officer supposed to do, get beaten to death by her? Give me a break.

  18. Paul Joseph says:

    Yes, I knew it…most cops are really cowards.

  19. Nexdeceptus says:

    So that’s what they’re calling it now “modified duty”? Really.

  20. Lee says:

    Use of force continuum at work here. If she sprung on him fast with that bat and he couldn’t find cover or retreat fast enough to create distance, the use of force level above a person wielding a baseball bat is the sidearm. Shoot to stop the action…he did, she stopped.

  21. Jack says:

    If she’s crazy enough to attack the police, she’s crazy enough to be in the asylum. Why isn’t she?

    1. Bob Humphrey says:

      Why? The cops need a few crazies outside for target practice.

  22. Every single police department in this country needs mandatory de escalation training, now!! I don’t care what race either party is, it is way past time for this shoot now investigate later mentality to stop! Cops in this country are weak.

    Think my prior comment wasn’t accepted. We shall see.

    1. Yeah, we should see how you feel about someone attacking you or your family members with a bat. Just talk the crazy lady down, right? So many idiots.

  23. Riversong says:

    Cops are trained today to be more concerned about their own safety than the safety of the public they are sworn to protect and serve.

  24. Rich says:

    he should have backed down, and left the apartment…. then called for non violent support…

    killing her with two gun shots…. was cowardly…

    police state problem…. he should be fired… and never again be in armed employment, or law enforcement antwhere..

    She died….he killed her, this needs to cost him something….

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