A New York City police sergeant was acquitted Thursday of murder in the fatal 2016 shooting of a bat-wielding, mentally ill 66-year-old woman in the bedroom of her Bronx apartment.
The death of the woman, Deborah Danner, became a flash point in the national, racially charged debate over whether police officers are too quick to shoot people and whether they are adequately trained and sufficiently conscientious in their dealings with people suffering from severe mental illness.
The sergeant, Hugh Barry, 32, had also been charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide and chose to have his case decided by a judge instead of a jury; he was acquitted on all counts by Justice Robert A. Neary of State Supreme Court.
Because the sergeant claimed self-defense, Justice Neary said that the prosecution needed to prove that he was “not justified in the use of deadly physical force.”
Deborah Danner in her Facebook profile photo.
But the sergeant’s lawyer, Andrew C. Quinn, argued that the department’s training set few hard-and-fast rules, often leaving decision-making to field supervisors, such as Sergeant Barry, a nine-year veteran.
Sergeant Barry remained suspended from the force with pay Thursday morning. Union leaders called for his immediate reinstatement. They characterized his conduct as not only legal, but entirely reasonable. “I think any sergeant, or officer, put in the same situation would react the same way,” said Ed Mullins, the president of the sergeants’ union.