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Vol. 80/No. 42      November 7, 2016

(front page)

NY police killing of mentally ill Deborah Danner
sparks outrage

Above, Scott Heins for Gothamist

Protest in Bronx, New York, Oct. 19, near where cop killed Deborah Danner. “As far as I know” schizophrenia “is not a fatal disease,” she wrote. But when cops were called while she was in distress, they shot her. Inset, Deborah Danner.

NEW YORK — “We’re hurt, we’re neighbors,” protesters chanted as they marched through the streets of the Castle Hill neighborhood in the Bronx Oct. 19 against the killing of 66-year-old Deborah Danner by New York Police Department cop Hugh Barry. Danner was shot after neighbors called for help when she began acting erratically the night before.

Danner suffered from schizophrenia. “Its only ‘saving grace,’ if you will,” she wrote four years earlier in a poignant essay, “is that as far as I know it’s not a fatal disease.”

But the cops who answered the distress call were fatal. Claiming Danner was brandishing a bat while naked in her bedroom, Barry shot her twice, killing her.

Jennifer Danner was outside the apartment waiting to help when her sister was gunned down. She had been there before when authorities were called to take her sister to the hospital.

Danner’s neighbor Harold Deamues saw her shortly before the cops arrived. “I knew they were here for her,” he told the Gothamist. “They’ve come up at least 20 times.” Deamues, his wife and their baby daughter were among those who joined the protest the next night.

The case echoes the cop killing of Eleanor Bumpurs, another emotionally disturbed woman, in 1984. The cops were called by the New York City Housing Authority, which was trying to evict Bumpurs because she was behind on her rent. Officers stormed her Bronx apartment, said she had a knife, and shot her.

Bumpurs “was killed by police with a shotgun,” Danner wrote in her 2012 essay, “because they were not trained sufficiently in how to engage the mentally ill in crisis.”

Shantel Bumpurs, Eleanor’s granddaughter, was one of those who spoke out against the killing of Danner. “My family went through the same troubles but nothing has changed,” she told the New York Daily News.

Seeking to defuse protests, both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill took their distance from the killing. “Our officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation,” de Blasio said. “It’s very hard for any of us to see that that standard was met.”

“What is clear in this one instance, we failed,” O’Neill said.

Barry, who was sued twice for police brutality in the last four years, has been placed on “modified duty.” The Bronx district attorney said he will investigate.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and other cop groups have campaigned for Barry to be exonerated and praised, including putting a full-page ad in the Daily News.

“The cops who shot Deborah Danner should be charged and prosecuted,” Jacob Perasso, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from New York, told fellow protesters he spoke with at a rally in Newark, New Jersey, against police killings Oct. 24. “Protests against killings like this across the country have forced authorities to take some steps to rein in their cops. Working people need to keep joining together to demand action.”

Sheila Reid, whose son Jerame was killed by Bridgeton, New Jersey, cops in 2014, and Hawa Bah, whose son Mohamed was shot dead by NYPD cops in 2012 after she called for help when he was depressed, plan to join Perasso at a speakout against the killing of Danner at the New York Militant Labor Forum Fri., Oct. 28.
Related articles:
Calif. cop convicted in death of Andrew Thomas
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