NYPD commissioner: ‘We failed’ in fatal shooting

Associated Press

New York — The New York City police commissioner said his department “failed” when an officer fatally shot an emotionally disturbed woman swinging a baseball bat inside her apartment.

“We failed. I want to know why it happened,” Commissioner James O’Neill told reporters Wednesday following the killing of 66-year-old Deborah Danner. “That’s not how it’s supposed to go. It’s not how we train; our first obligation is to preserve life, not to take a life when it can be avoided.”

Officers were responding to a 911 call about an emotionally disturbed person at about 6:15 p.m. Tuesday when they encountered Danner in her seventh floor apartment in the Bronx, police said. A sergeant with eight years on the job persuaded the woman to drop a pair of scissors she had been holding.

Police said after she put down the scissors she grabbed a baseball bat and tried to strike the sergeant, who fired two shots from his revolver and hit her in the torso.

Danner was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The police sergeant was not immediately identified.

The state attorney general’s office said it’s determining whether the shooting falls under its jurisdiction.

Assistant Chief Larry Nikunen said the sergeant was equipped with a stun gun and the reason it was not deployed will be part of the investigation.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. issued a statement condemning the police shooting of a mentally disturbed woman.

“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,” Diaz said.

O’Neill conceded the shooting could exacerbate animosity toward officers following a spate of civilian killings by police across the country.

“Instances like what happened last night in the Bronx certainly don’t make it better. They just increase the tension.”