A New York City police officer shot and killed a 66-year-old woman while responding to a call at a Bronx apartment, police officials said Wednesday.
Officers went to the Pugsley Avenue apartment around 6 p.m. Tuesday after a neighbor called 911 about an “emotionally disturbed person,” Assistant Chief Larry W. Nikunen said.
A sergeant entered the seventh-floor apartment and encountered the woman, who was armed with scissors, but he persuaded her to put them down, Nikunen said.
The woman grabbed a baseball bat and attempted to strike the sergeant, Nikunen said. The officer fired two shots, striking the woman in the torso, he said. She died of her injuries after being taken to Jacobi Medical Center.
Officer carried a stun gun
The officer was armed with a Taser, but it was not deployed, Nikunen said.
The reason it was not deployed and whether it was necessary for the sergeant to open fire will be a part of the investigation by the New York police’s Force Investigation Division, Nikunen said.
The woman was identified as Deborah Danner, said Thomas Antonetti of the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information. She was a 66-year-old black female who lived alone, Nikunen said.
The officer has not been named, but Nikunen said he is a white male and an eight-year veteran of the police department. Antonetti said the officer is on “modified assignment” that requires he be stripped of his gun and badge pending the investigation.
Nikunen said that the New York police has a history of responding to this apartment for similar disturbances.
“There have been several instances with this individual with similar types of calls,” Nikunen said, adding he did not have the details on those earlier incidents.
Shooting called ‘an outrage’
New York officials quickly responded.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted: “We’re determined to get to the bottom of what happened and won’t rest until we do.”
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. issued a statement calling the shooting “an outrage, especially given the New York Police Department’s knowledge of this woman’s history and the police officer’s possession of a stun gun.”
“While I certainly understand the hard work that our police officers undertake to keep the streets of our city safe every single day, I also know what excessive force looks like.”
Diaz called on New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark to investigate.
Under an executive order Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in 2015, the attorney general can act as a special prosecutor in cases in which law enforcement officers kill civilians.
A spokesman for the attorney general said his office was reviewing the fatal shooting.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement: “Use of deadly force must be a last resort and once again we have an instance where it was not. Deborah Danner should have been helped, not killed.”
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James tweeted, “Police-involved shooting of woman in Bronx is concerning. We need a swift, thorough, transparent (investigation).”
The killing comes after protests in recent years over fatal police shootings of black people in cities such as Charlotte, North Carolina, and Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters have been demanding justice and an end to police brutality.
Eugene O’Donnell, professor of law and police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told CNN that these situations are “all too common and all too predictable.”
But the shooting appeared to be legally justified, he said.
O’Donnell said that ideally, mentally unstable individuals should be protected and overseen to make sure they stay on their medications.
He said the New York Police Department has specially trained officers for these types of incidents, but the officers who initially respond usually don’t have that training.
“Anyone who says this was a Taser situation doesn’t understand what the police do,” he said. “A baseball bat can cause death or serious physical injury, and a Taser is not appropriate in a deadly force situation.”