CASTLE HILL, Bronx – There's been an unusually swift and harsh official rebuke of Tuesday night's fatal police shooting of a 66-year-old mentally ill woman in her New York City apartment by a police sergeant.
Police say the woman tried to strike an officer with a baseball bat.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says Deborah Danner "should be alive right now, period," and Police Commissioner James O'Neill said means other than deadly force should have been used.
The NYPD was called about an "emotionally disturbed person" inside a seventh-floor apartment on Pugsley Avenue Tueday night and encountered the woman holding scissors in a bedroom.
Sgt. Hugh Barry, an eight-year veteran of the NYPD, convinced Deborah Danner to drop the scissors, but then she picked up a wooden bat, police said.
NYPD Asst. Chief Larry Nikunen, commanding Bronx officer, said the sergeant shot the woman because she was approaching him with a bat.
"As she attempted to strike the sergeant, he fired two shots from his service revolver, striking her in the torso," Nikunen said.
Danner's sister was in the hallway, nervous, but said she had faith when officers arrived. Then, she said, she saw them rush into the home and heard three gunshots.
"I asked if my sister was OK. No response," she recalled.
Neighbors who spoke to PIX11 News were stunned police used lethal force.
"I don't know what transpired but I do know that officers have weapons of all types," Karl Nickerson said. "If a person is mentally deranged I'm sure there's training where lives can still be saved and she can still get the help she needs."
Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill had a late night meeting at City Hall about the shooting.
During an afternoon news conference Wednesday, de Blasio said Danner did not need to die.
"The shooting of Deborah Danner is tragic and unacceptable," he said. "It should never have happened. It's as simple as that: it should never have happened. The NYPD's job is to protect life."
O'Neill said "we failed."
A police source told PIX11 News the sergeant did not follow protocol when responding to a mentally ill individual, and patrol officers nearby did not call Emergency Services Unit officers for help, also against protocol.
Barry's union came to his defense Wednesday, saying he deserves the "benefit of the doubt." The Sergeants Benevolent Association called Barry's record "exemplary" and said O'Neill's comment denies him due process.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. called the shooting an outrage in a statement.
“This elderly woman was known to the police department, yet the officer involved in this shooting failed to use discretion to either talk her down from her episode or, barring that, to use his stun gun.”
Neighbors were stunned she didn't get help sooner.
"I personally saw them bring her out on a stretcher with a straight jacket.. it's really sad this is how her life had to end," one neighbor said.
Black Lives Matter members said they will gather outside the apartment building Wednesday night, calling for the New York Attorney General to investigate the shooting.