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Bronx DA to ask for grand jury in death of Deborah Danner, killed by NYPD sergeant

CASTLE HILL, the Bronx — A grand jury will be called to investigate the death of a woman who was shot and killed by an NYPD sergeant as police responded to her home in October, the Bronx District Attorney said.

Calls for an outside entity to probe the case emerged soon after Deborah Danner was killed, with high-profile city leaders calling for the New York attorney general’s office to take over the case. But Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the case falls beyond his office’s jurisdiction, adding there is “no question this case must be investigated.”

Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark on Monday said her office will request that the case be given to a grand jury.

Police were responding on Oct. 18 to Danner’s seventh-floor apartment on Pugsley Avenue for a report about an “emotionally disturbed person,” authorities said.

When police arrived, they found the 66-year-old holding scissors in a bedroom. Danner was described by her family as having a mental illness.

Sgt. Hugh Barry, an eight-year veteran of the NYPD, convinced Danner to drop the scissors, but then she picked up a wooden bat, police said at the time.

Dannger allegedly “attempted to strike the sergeant,” who then fired two shots, NYPD Asst. Chief Larry Nikunen, commanding Bronx officer, said at the time.

Barry had a stun gun but did not use it, the NYPD said. He was placed on modified duty.

Soon after the fatal encounter, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on the case, saying the 66-year-old did not need to die.

“The shooting of Deborah Danner is tragic and unacceptable,” de Blasio 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.”

The Bronx district attorney said a grand jury should determine “whether, and to what extent, criminal charges should be brought” against the sergeant.

Her full statement reads:

“I will ask the Administrative Judge of the Supreme Court to impanel a special grand jury to investigate the fatal shooting of Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old woman, in her apartment on October 18, 2016, and to determine whether, and to what extent, criminal charges should be brought in connection with that incident.

“I have pledged to the people of the Bronx to conduct a thorough, fair investigation into this matter and I believe that presenting the evidence to a grand jury will best accomplish that goal. It is important to determine exactly what happened in this tragic incident.

“There is no timetable for the grand jury to be impaneled or for it to reach a determination.”

A spokesperson for the NYPD said the department “will cooperate with the Bronx DA’s Office regarding the death of Deborah Danner.”