A New York City Police Department sergeant who shot and killed a mentally ill black woman two years ago was found not guilty following a bench trial.
According to the New York Post, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary acquitted Sgt. Hugh Barry of all charges, including murder, in the October 2016 death of 66-year-old Deborah Danner.
This verdict was reached despite the strong language city officials like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill used after the deadly shooting, both echoing sentiments that police protocol had not been followed, which resulted in Danner’s death.
Barry, who chose a nonjury trial, testified during the two-week-long proceedings that he shot Danner—who grappled with schizophrenia—using his service weapon because he feared for his life.
“I just see the bat swinging, and that’s when I fired,” Barry testified on Tuesday. “I’m looking at this bat that can crack me in the head and kill me.”
Officers were responding to a call about an “emotionally disturbed person” when Barry encountered Danner on Oct. 18, 2016. Police reports of the encounter detailed that the elderly woman was wielding scissors, which she was eventually persuaded to drop—before picking up a bat and allegedly attacking Barry.
“If she hadn’t taken that step, we wouldn’t be having a trial. We wouldn’t be having a funeral,” defense attorney Andrew Quinn argued Wednesday.
Prosecutors attempted to argue that Barry did not follow proper procedure, causing the already agitated Danner to become even more disturbed.
“[Barry] failed to fulfill his duties as a patrol supervisor,” Assistant District Attorney Wanda Perez-Maldonado argued. “He failed to make use of the resources available to him.”
“He created the situation … that led to her death,” Perez-Maldonado added.
However, in the end, Barry will walk free, a fact that had the Sergeants Benevolent Association, a police union, reacting with “much joy and relief.”
“Sgt. Barry committed no crime and was justified in his actions,” a union statement said. “I commend Judge Neary for recognizing that and acquitting Sgt. Barry of these horrendous charges.”
If convicted for murder, Barry could have faced up to life in prison.
Danner’s family still has a federal lawsuit against the city that is being processed.