NYPD sergeant finally faces trial in death of schizophrenic Bronx woman

The NYPD sergeant who fatally shot a schizophrenic woman in the Bronx more than five years ago is facing his long-delayed internal trial for failing to “do what was necessary to preserve life,” prosecutors said Tuesday.

Sgt. Hugh Barry — who was previously acquitted of criminal charges after being the first on-duty cop to face a murder rap since 1999 — fatally shot Deborah Danner in October 2016 inside the 66-year-old’s apartment on Pugsley Avenue in Castle Hill after she swung a baseball bat at him.

Prosecutor David Green argued inside one of NYPD’s tribunal rooms at One Police Plaza on Tuesday morning that Barry “chased [Danner] into her bedroom” — ignoring orders “not to rush” and to “avoid behavior that causes agitation.” 

“Sergeant Barry alone caused himself to be put into this horrible situation,” Green said.

Green claimed Barry showed a “complete lack of planning and coordination and disregard for the rules” and “did not do what was necessary to preserve life.”

The sergeant, who faces termination for poor tactical judgment and a failure to supervise subordinates, has claimed he acted in self-defense.

Deborah Danner was killed in the Bronx more than five years ago.

“When [Barry] arrived, she was holding his officers at bay with a pair of scissors,” his attorney John D’Alessandro said. “He de-escalated. He spoke to her in a calm voice. He got her to put the scissors down. They tried to grab her.

“Surprisingly, she was very quick … She began to swing the bat at Barry’s head.”

D’Alessandro called the case “sad” but said the charges were “about blaming a cop for society’s and the department’s failings.”

“Mayor [Bill] de Blasio and [then-]Commissioner [James] O’Neill threw Barry under the bus,” said D’Alessandro, repeating claims from the cop’s lawsuit that contributed to the delay in the internal trial.

ADA Wanda Perez-Maldonado  demonstrates how Deborah Danner
ADA Wanda Perez-Maldonado demonstrates how Danner swung a bat at Barry, in court in 2018.
Richard Harbus

The defense attorney said since Barry was cleared of any criminality, “he has come to work with a positive attitude” but now the department “shamefully seeks to terminate him for political reasons.”

Danner’s 72-year-old sister, Jennifer, testified Tuesday that she heard much of the encounter before it turned deadly.

“Why are you here? Leave me alone! I don’t want you here!” Jennifer recalled her sister yelling.

She said she then heard someone calmly order Deborah to “put down the scissors” before “it got quiet.”

“Then, I heard three shots,” Jennifer testified.

A closeup photo of Deborah Danner's bedroom with blood stains on the bed.
A close-up photo of Danner’s bedroom is seen with bloodstains on the bed after she was killed.
Richard Harbus

The next time she saw her sister, she was wrapped in a sheet on a stretcher and EMTs were giving her chest compressions as they rushed her to an ambulance outside, she recalled.

In 2018, New York City settled a lawsuit brought by Jennifer for $2 million over her sister’s death.

That same year, Barry was cleared of charges after opting for a non-jury trial.

Jennifer Danner
Danner’s sister, Jennifer (right), testified Tuesday that she heard much of the encounter before it turned deadly.
David McGlynn

“I just see the bat swinging, and that’s when I fired,’’ he said at the time. “I’m looking at this bat that can crack me in the head and kill me.”

After her testimony, Jennifer Danner called on Barry to be removed from the force.

“I would like to see him fired,” she said outside police headquarters. “He does not need to be a police officer if he can’t deal with mentally ill people without shooting them.

“I know he’s been getting paid. He’s not on the street, but he still has his job.”