Yesterday, we reported a distressed woman who was shot by Austin police after her husband called 911 to ask for a mental health officer. Tragically, we now have another incident of police fatally shooting a mentally ill woman. A 66-year-old woman in New York City was fatally shot by the NYPD Tuesday after allegedly trying to hit the officer with a baseball bat.
Tuesday night in the Bronx, police officers responded to a 911 call around 6:15 "regarding a female who was acting in an irrational manner," according to the Gothamist. According to the NYPD, officers entered the apartment and encountered the woman, who was naked and "armed with a pair of scissors." The officer talked to the woman and convinced her to put her scissors down. After that, though, the woman reportedly "approached the sergeant and grabbed a baseball bat." When she allegedly tried to hit the officer with the bat, he fired two fatal shots into the woman's torso.
The shooter, police sergeant Hugh Barry, has been a cop for eight years. He reportedly had a Taser on him, but did not use it. Police will conduct an investigation and review of the shooting, but, for now, Barry has been placed on modified duty, according to ABC 7 in New York.
NBC New York has identified the 66-year-old victim as Deborah Danner. Danner struggled with schizophrenia, and while she was fine when taking her medicine, police were called to her apartment "practically once a month when she was off the meds," according to ABC 7. One of the building's residents said that he previously saw police "bring her out on a stretcher in a straitjacket and she's snarling and spitting and talking all crazy."
According to NPR, a fourth of all police shootings involve someone with mental illness. Multiple reports have found that the U.S. relies too heavily on our criminal justice system to deal with the public health problem of mental illness. With decreased spending on mental health care, the three largest mental health providers in the country are jails, in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
UPDATED 1:31 p.m. ET:
According to NBC New York, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said on Wednesday that the shooting was “distressing. ” When it comes to dealing with “emotionally disturbed people” like Danner, the NYPD does have “policies and procedures,” but this time, “it looks like some of those procedures weren’t followed,” O’Neill said. “What is clear in this one instance, we failed.”