Deborah Danner could be sweet. Deborah Danner could be kind. But Deborah Danner was also affected with severe mental illness that sometimes caused her to be violent, irrational, and dangerous.
The 66-year-old Danner lost her battle with mental illness Tuesday night after putting up a valiant fight for decades.
When NYPD officers were once again called to her Bronx apartment home to try to help her, Danner threatened to stab officers with scissors. The sergeant forcing Danner drew his service handgun, which is (to the best of my knowledge) the correct response to a violent person threatening an officer with a weapon in every police department in the United States.
Danner put the scissors down, but only to pick up a baseball bat, which she then used to attack the sergeant. He then fired two rounds from his still-drawn revolver (yes, some NYPD officers still carry revolvers), which stopped her attack. She was transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, Ms. Danner died.
Based upon the totality of the circumstances, it appears that the officer in question probably did everything exactly as officers around the nation are trained to do.
That hasn’t kept New York City’s untrained, cop-hating mayor Bill de Blasio from ignorantly weighing in.
The mayor on Wednesday castigated a police sergeant for killing a mentally ill, 66-year-old woman in her home, saying her death was “tragic” and “unacceptable” and her shooting violated department policy.
“Deborah Danner should be alive right now, period,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “If the protocols had been followed, she would be alive. It’s as simple as that.”
It likewise hasn’t kept New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill from betraying his officers.
Addressing the media Wednesday, O’Neill said, officers are taught “policies and procedures for handling emotionally-disturbed people.”
“It looks like that some of those procedures were not followed,” O’Neill said.
That’s a steaming pile of crap, and if O’Neill is trained at anything other than pushing papers, he’d know that.
An officer facing off against an armed suspect in close confines such as a Bronx apartment has very limited options. No, deploying a taser is not one of them. Sergeant Hugh Barry’s choices were limited by the circumstances to three possible actions:
- talk the suspect into compliance
- use a firearm
Sgt. Barry attempted to talk Deborah Danner into putting her weapons down. He appeared to be initially successful when she put down the scissors, only to see her pick up a bat and then come at him.
When compliance failed, Barry’s options were reduced to retreating and firing his weapon. In the close confines of an apartment, especially with other officers behind him and Danner advancing from the front, retreat was no longer an option.
Sgt. Hugh Barry had one remaining option, an option that he was trained to take from his earliest days at the academy.
He raised his handgun, and he pulled the trigger twice, as officers nationwide are trained to do under a deadly force attack.
He then observed that Deborah Danner was no longer a threat. He did not fire any more rounds. He and the other officers on scene took Ms. Danner into custody, and had EMS transport her to the hospital. She unfortunately did not survive.
Ed Mullins, the head of the police union representing NYPD sergeants, said the Sgt. Barry was justified in defending himself and his fellow officers from Deborah Danner’s attack.
“We could be sitting here talking about how a 66-year-old … fractured his skull,” Mullins said.
Mullins is entirely correct.
NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry appears to have followed his law enforcement training to the letter. It is an unfortunate fact that sometimes emotionally disturbed persons like Deborah Danner do attack, and sometimes seriously injure or even kill those attempting to help them. Because emotionally disturbed persons do sometimes attempt to murder or maim their fellow citizens, they are sometimes injured or killed as their victims are forced to defend themselves.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill could have simply pointed out these undeniable and self-evident facts, and promise a thorough review of the incident to ensure Sgt. Barry followed protocols as he appears to have done.
Instead, they cravenly sacrificed Barry on the alter of political correctness as soon as they could find a camera and microphone.
That isn’t leadership. That’s moral cowardice.