NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill are being criticized for making a “rush to judgment” in the fatal police shooting of an emotionally-disturbed woman in the Bronx.
Tuesday night’s fatal shooting of 66-year-old Deborah Danner at Jaime Towers led to quick condemnation from de Blasio and O’Neill.
“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.
O’Neill said it’s clear “we failed” and that he is committed to “get to the answers of what happened.”
Police said NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry was armed with a Taser, which was never deployed. Barry had participated in a new training regiment that includes de-escalation.
Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, told CBS2’s Tony Aiello that his union members are upset.
“We have a mayor who’s under federal investigation with members of his staff who’s already rushed to judgment,” said Mullins. “He would not like it if we called on him to step down.”
Barry, who arrived at the home after receiving a call about an emotionally-disturbed person, found Danner with scissors in her hand inside her Castle Hills apartment. Police said Barry persuaded Danner to put down the scissors, but that he fired two shots at her after she tried to hit him with a baseball bat.
Many are asking why Barry didn’t use his Taser.
“At times, the Taser is a slow weapon to work. You have to fire the Taser, both darts have to hit the person, you then have to apply the electricity. This could have been an immediate situation,” said John Eterno of Molloy College.
De Blasio defended the handling of the case.
“Our commissioner very forthrightly told the people of the city what he saw and how it violated the protocols that are in place. I think that’s an important statement of transparency and accountability,” said de Blasio.
The sergeants union showed off an NYPD shooting range target that features a man holding a baseball bat. They said cops are uncertain if NYPD’s top brass and City Hall are in their corner.
Mullins called the mayor’s handling of this case “politically motivated” to minimize unrest and protesting. CBS2 asked City Hall for comment but did not hear back.
Schneiderman said the Danner case falls beyond his office’s jurisdiction under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order, which authorizes the attorney general to investigate deaths of unarmed civilians in encounters with law enforcement.
The Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit examines cases involving the killings of unarmed civilians by police or when there are questions about whether the slain civilian was armed and dangerous.
“Ms. Danner’s death is a tragedy that never should have happened,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “From the moment my office received the news, our Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit commenced a rigorous review of the evidence. I believe there is no question this case must be investigated. However, the legally empowered prosecutor must take the lead.
The Bronx District Attorney’s Office will handle the investigation.
“I intend to conduct a full, reasoned and independent investigation into this matter, with an open mind, and any decisions that I make will be based upon the evidence,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said in a statement.
“Schneiderman’s commitment to justice is unquestioned, and I appreciate his swift review of this case,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Moving forward, I have the utmost confidence in Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark and her staff to conduct a thorough investigation of this shooting and the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms. Danner.”
Barry has been placed on modified duty.