An NYPD sergeant shot and killed a 66-year-old woman wielding a bat in the Bronx on Tuesday, and now cops say they’re looking into why the officer used lethal force instead of his stun gun.
Police were responding to a neighbor’s complaint about Deborah Danner behaving “in an irrational manner” in her Pugsley Ave. building near Seward Ave. in Castle Hill around 6:06 p.m., the NYPD said.
It wasn’t the first time — cops had answered similar calls at the address in the past, said authorities.
Sgt. Hugh Barry was among the officers who entered the seventh-floor apartment and found Danner in a bedroom holding a pair of scissors and threatening cops, police and sources said.
Barry, an eight-year department veteran working in the 43rd Precinct, convinced her to drop the scissors, but she grabbed a wooden bat and lunged a “close distance of an amount of feet” across the narrow room at him, sources said.
“As she attempted to strike the sergeant, he fired two shots from his service revolver, striking her in the torso,” said Assistant Chief Larry Nikunen, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Bronx.
Medics took the woman to Jacobi Hospital, where she died at 7:15 p.m.
It was unclear why the cop went for his gun.
“The sergeant was armed with a Taser. It was not deployed, and the reason it was not deployed will be part of the investigation and review,” Nikunen said.
Barry was placed on modified duty, stripped of his gun and shield, pending the outcome of the investigation, an NYPD spokesman confirmed.
Politicians, including Public Advocate Letitia James and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., called the shooting unacceptable.
“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.
Diaz compared the shooting to the 1984 police killing of Eleanor Bumpurs, a disturbed 66-year-old woman shot while brandishing a knife at officers, and asked state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to open a probe.
James also called for an investigation Tuesday night.
“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,” James said.
Activists also questioned the deadly use of force.
“America has to say enough is enough,” said Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter New York. “These police officers need to start using their brains and stop using their guns. People are dying and more other than not it’s black people. Black blood is running through the streets and we are receiving no justice.”
“We’re determined to get to the bottom of what happened and won’t rest until we do,” Mayor de Blasio tweeted after saying he had been briefed on the situation.
Neighbors said Danner was known for her odd behavior.
Raphelle Gundy, who lives on the second floor, said police took her out of the apartment several times, once in a straight jacket. She noted a dramatic decline in the woman after her mother died several years ago.
“She was hollering, screaming and spitting, and you would have thought this lady was possessed, but I knew she was mentally unbalanced,” she said. “I saw the change in her after her mother died. She used to speak to people when her mother was still alive.”
Danner lived alone, but the noise coming from the apartment was so loud that neighbors often thought she was fighting with someone else inside, Gundy said. “She’s hollering and screaming talking about how she’s going to hurt somebody,” she said. “This lady was talking like she was battling somebody.”
Maria Nieves, 63, said she was walking down the block Tuesday night when she saw the woman wrapped in a blanket as rescuers rolled her outside on a stretcher.
“They were giving her CPR trying to bring her back, but she was purple already,” Nieves said.
Ed Mullins, president of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association, said the shooting was justified and criticized the NYPD for placing Barry on modified duty, calling the move “political.”
“And it was indicated to me by numerous people at the scene, within the department that this was coming from Chief (of Patrol Terence) Monahan, and that this was purely political,” he said. “I understand that Ruben Diaz has put out some statement questioning what took place with the Taser. And basically what we have now is a Monday morning quarterback decision.”
Mullins added that he believes higher ups in the department believe the shooting was justified as well.
“Everyone agrees that this is a good shooting,” he said. “Everyone up at the scene, in the precinct, and when I say everyone, I’m going up the food chain as far as the brass goes.”