NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City police sergeant was charged on Wednesday with murdering an emotionally disturbed black woman whom he shot inside her apartment last year, police and prosecutors said.
Sergeant Hugh Barry, 31, was arrested on charges of murder in the first degree, manslaughter in the first and second degrees and criminally negligent homicide in the death of Deborah Danner, the Bronx district attorney’s office said.
Barry pleaded not guilty to the charges in the Bronx Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon, according to his union-appointed lawyer, Andrew Quinn, the general counsel of the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association. Quinn declined further comment.
Ahmed Nasser, a police department spokesman, declined to comment on the arrest beyond confirming details of the charges.
Danner’s shooting drew criticism from Mayor Bill de Blasio at the time and was seen as one of a string of episodes across the United States where police have been criticized as using excessive force against black people and the mentally ill.
Barry, who is white, entered Danner’s apartment in the Bronx on October 18, 2016. He arrived after other police officers and paramedics had already arrived on the scene, responding to a neighbor who had called the police to say Danner was acting irrationally and screaming in the hallway, according to the district attorney.
At one point, Danner, 66, picked up a pair of scissors as she resisted Barry’s efforts to take her to hospital. She then held a wooden bat towards him before Barry shot her twice in the torso with his service revolver.
De Blasio told reporters last year that Danner was mentally ill, according to her sister, and that the police had previously been called to her apartment several times and taken her to the hospital without harm. “It should have never had happened,” he said of the shooting.
After entering his plea, Barry was released on bail, which Judge Robert Neary set at $100,000, the district attorney’s office said.
If convicted of murder, he could be sentenced to up to life in prison.
Barry has been suspended without pay, according to Martin Brown, a police department spokesman.
James O’Neill, the city’s police commissioner, said at the time that Barry, who had been with the department for eight years, had not followed the department’s procedures for dealing with emotionally disturbed people.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Diane Craft and Alistair Bell