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66-Year-Old Woman Shot Dead by Police After Swinging Bat at Officer: NYPD

By  Murray Weiss Kathleen Culliton and Radhika Marya | October 18, 2016 10:26pm | Updated on October 19, 2016 3:42pm

 Police fatally shot Deborah Danner, 66, in her Castle Hill apartment, they said.
Police fatally shot Deborah Danner, 66, in her Castle Hill apartment, they said.
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Twitter/@DeborahDanner01 and DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

THE BRONX — A 66-year-old emotionally disturbed woman was shot and killed by a police sergeant after she charged at him with a baseball bat in her Bronx home Tuesday evening, the NYPD said.

Police were responding to a neighbor's complaint about a woman behaving "in an irrational manner" in her Pugsley Avenue building near Randall Avenue in Castle Hill at 6:06 p.m., the NYPD said.

Sgt. Hugh Barry was among the officers who entered Deborah Danner's seventh-floor apartment along with her sister, Jennifer Danner, officials said. Inside, she threatened them with a pair of scissors she was clasping, police and sources said.

The sergeant calmed down Danner, who was wearing a night gown, and convinced her to put down the scissors, but as he was about to try to escort her out of the apartment she grabbed a baseball bat, police and sources said.

Officers repeatedly asked Danner to drop the bat, but she suddenly charged and swung at the sergeant's head, sources said.

Barry "fired two shots from his service revolver striking her in the torso," the NYPD and sources said. 

Danner was taken to Jacobi Medical Center where she was pronounced dead, officials said.

Danner's sister, who was just outside the room, heard the shots ring out, officials said.

"You can only imagine the pain she feels... Having had to stand there when the shots were fired and knowing she lost her sister," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Wednesday.

Barry, who'd received deescalation training in 2014, didn't use his Taser which is a violation of protocol, officials said.

"The sergeant last night had the training, had the tools to deal with this in a  different manner," de Blasio said.

"There was certainly a protocol that was not followed," the mayor added.

The incident is being investigated by the NYPD's Force Investigation Division and a full review will be conducted, police said. 

Barry was placed on modified assignment and stripped of his gun and badge pending the outcome of the investigation.

Police had visited Danner's home three or four times in recent years and they knew about her emotional issues, de Blasio said.

Her sister had also struggled for decades to get help for Danner, the mayor said.

"It is quite clear that it has been a very difficult road trying to get help for her sister," de Blasio said.

Danner said she had worked as a DSL technician, systems programmer, control analyst, payroll supervisor and in other technology roles, according to her Facebook profile.

This year, she also became a very active Twitter user, railing against gun violence, the 2016 presidential election and discussing other current events like the death of Muhammed Ali

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill and de Blasio called the fatal shooting a failure.

The mayor praised O'Neill's frankness about Danner's death.

"Our police commissioner came forward and told the city exactly what happened and exactly how wrong it was," the mayor said.

Both the mayor and commissioner praised NYPD officers' usual adherence to protocol and pledged to fully investigate the fatal shooting.

Police have received 128,781 calls for emotionally disturbed people so far this year, the mayor said. Only one of those calls, Danner's, turned deadly, the mayor said.

"Tens of thousands of officers have received the training. The vast majority of the times, they're handling it very well," de Blasio said.

The incident recalls another fatal shooting of a Bronx woman, Eleanor Bumpurs, who several decades ago was shot and killed by police in her apartment when she was cooking lye on a stove and then lunged at officers with a knife.

That incident sparked a controversy over police tactics. 

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. recalled the Bumpurs case in a statement, saying Tuesday evening's shooting was "all too reminiscent" of what had happened decades earlier.

"While I certainly understand the hard work our police officers undertake to keep the streets of our city safe every single day, I also know what excessive force looks like," Diaz said in a statement.

"I call on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and District Attorney Darcel Clark to begin an immediate investigation."

The state attorney general's office now investigates all fatal police shootings under an order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Schneiderman's office recently brought charges against an off-duty Brooklyn officer who shot and killed a motorist during an alleged "road rage" incident.

Ed Mullins, president of the sergeants union, said the shooting was justified and criticized the NYPD for placing Barry, an eight-year-veteran with an unblemished record, on modified duty, saying the move was "politically motivated."

"This is a terrible message," Mullins said.