The acquittal of a veteran NYPD sergeant in the fatal shooting of a schizophenic Bronx woman came Thursday in a deadly quiet courtroom — and then the shouting started.
City police unions praised the verdict before they blasted Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill after a Bronx bench trial ended with Sgt. Hugh Barry’s exoneration on all charges.
The sergeant sat stoically as Supreme Court Judge Robert Neary announced his decision around 9:40 a.m. in the dramatic finish to Barry’s trial for killing Deborah Danner, 66, inside her Bronx apartment.
Barry, 31, was charged with murder after firing two bullets into the mentally ill woman’s chest during a quickly escalating showdown that lasted just seconds.
Deborah Danner, 66, was shot twice after a seconds-long standoff with NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry in her Castle Hill bedroom. (FACEBOOK)
The victim’s sister Jennifer Danner raised her eyebrows slightly as the officer was cleared in the killing. Barry testified that his life was in danger when Danner swung a 32-inch baseball bat at his head.
Sgt. Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, praised the verdict while ripping de Blasio, O’Neill and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.
“What I saw was the police commissioner play politics,” said Mullins. “I saw a mayor play politics and a district attorney play politics.”
Barry “was wronged all along, and it’s up now to the commissioner to make it right,” the union head continued after the verdict. “He owes him an apology. The mayor owes him an apology. And so does the district attorney.”
The sergeants union, via its Twitter page, released a photo depicting the trio of city officials as “Three Blind Mice. See how...‘They failed’!”
Barry still faces an NYPD investigation of what went wrong during the Oct. 18, 2016, slaying.
The victim’s family and friends, in far more subdued style, questioned how Barry was found guilty of no crime in the killing of a senior citizen.
Danner’s cousin Wallace Cooke Jr., a former NYPD officer, expressed his disgust after hearing the decision in a trial that lasted just over two weeks.
“Police departments allow this to happen,” he said. “To have this going on today is unacceptable.”
And the victim’s friend Chris Berry, after attending the trial daily, expected the verdict handed down by Neary.
“It’s not a surprise at all," she said. “It’s virtually impossible to convict a police officer. It’s heartbreaking...I’m really sorry that (Deborah) met that untimely, tragic death.”
Both de Blasio and O’Neill condemned Barry’s handling of the case in short order, and the DA’s office pressed for a murder indictment in the case.
Barry became the first NYPD member to face a top homicide count for an on-duty shooting since 1999, when four cops were charged in the killing of unarmed Amadou Diallo as he reached for his wallet.
All, like Barry, were acquitted at trial.
“Clearly this case involved a terrible tragedy and emotions on both sides are elevated,” Neary said before delivering his verdict.
“The prosecution’s evidence has failed to meet (its) burden of proof. The court finds the defendant not guilty.”
Barry was “overwhelmed” by his acquittal after 16 torturous months — and headed from the courtroom to a church for a morning Mass, said defense attorney Andrew Quinn.
“He’s been through a very difficult time,” said Quinn. “We’ve always felt confident we would win but you never know until you see the evidence.”
The sergeant was rushed out of the courtroom following the verdict. He left without speaking to reporters.
Barry was charged with second-degree murder, two counts of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide by prosecutors who condemned his actions as “reckless.”
He faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch echoed Mullins in praising Neary for deciding the case in favor of the sergeant.
“The judge looked at the preponderance of all the evidence and concluded that the actions of the Sergeant were appropriate and not criminal,” said Lynch.
“There is no victory here today, only relief that justice has been served and a good man who was doing a difficult and dangerous job has been exonerated.”
Mullins also demanded that O’Neill reinstate Barry, who was placed on suspended duty last May.
O’Neill, in a department-wide message issued after the verdict, said the NYPD will now conduct its review of the tactical and supervisory decisions made inside the seventh-floor apartment.
“Today’s court decision in the Bronx determined that Sgt. Hugh Barry had no criminal culpability,” wrote O’Neill. “It does not, however, make the loss of Deborah Danner’s life any less tragic.