The NYPD “failed” when a sergeant fatally shot a disturbed 66-year-old woman when she charged at him with a baseball bat, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said Wednesday morning.
“We want to know why it happened,” the top cop said during an address to the Citizen’s Crime Commission at the Sea Level Café in Manhattan.
Police have made multiple visits to Deborah Danner’s apartment on Pugsley Avenue in The Bronx because of reported disturbances, sources said.
Wallace Cooke Jr., a retired cop who identified himself as Danner’s cousin, said she was schizophrenic.
“My cousin was mentally ill for years. I’m a retired cop. I worked in Harlem in the 26th Precinct. I retired in 1984 from the ’60s. And I had many cases, all mentally ill people….I never had to shoot anybody or pull my gun on them,” he told The Post.
“I resent she being dead this morning because I would have handled it totally different,” he said. “She definitely had mental problems….Her mother got her treatment. Her sister got her treatment and it just didn’t work.”
Asked if she was taking her medication, he said, “All mental illness people have a problem taking medication.”
The 15-year NYPD veteran also said cops should have been better prepared to deal with Danner, because they had responded to her home “numerous, numerous times over the years.”
“Debbie was sick ever since she was in college. She was a very smart bookwise young person,” he said. “If you’re not aware of her condition, if you just came on the patrol for the first time, you should know how to deal with mentally ill people.”
And he railed against Sgt. Hugh Barry, who fired the fatal shot and was then placed on modified duty pending an investigation.
He said Barry could have waited for highly trained members of the Emergency Service Unit to arrive.
“The other more simple thing they could’ve done is just close the goddamn door. It’s as simple as that. Where was she going? Close the door. She didn’t have no gun,” he said.
Cooke said Danner’s sister Jennifer, who had been called by building security, was at the scene but that cops wouldn’t allow her to talk with Danner to calm her down.
“Her sister Jenny was right there when she was shot…They [cops] wouldn’t even let her try to talk to Debbie….I understand they have their procedures. I am a retired cop, but they have to do a better job of handling mental illness and the racist factor,” he said.
On race being a factor, he added: “I’m a Southern black and I’ll tell you something: I do not like the way we are being treated in this country. I have kids… When I speak for Debbie I’m also speaking for them. I do not want anybody killing my kids because of the color of their skin.”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement: “Our office is reviewing the incident to determine whether or not it falls within the Attorney General’s jurisdiction under the Executive Order. We extend our deepest condolences to Ms. Danner’s family.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the order in August 2015 — nearly a year after Eric Garner’s chokehold death by a cop on Staten Island – making Schneiderman a special prosecutor for all police killings of civilians in New York.
The fatal confrontation Tuesday occurred after cops responded to Danner’s home after neighbors reported a resident screaming, according to police.
When they entered the apartment, the woman threatened them with scissors. They persuaded her to drop it, but then she grabbed a wooden bat and charged at Barry, police said.
He fired two shots and struck Danner in the torso. She was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center, where she died.
Barry, who has eight years on the force and no disciplinary record, was also armed with a Taser at the time.