NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City police sergeant was found not guilty of all charges on Thursday in the 2016 death of a emotionally disturbed woman whom he shot as she wielded a baseball bat in her apartment, the officer’s union said.
Judge Robert Neary issued the not-guilty verdict clearing Sergeant Hugh Barry in Bronx Criminal Court after a three-week bench trial, the Sergeants Benevolent Association said in a statement.
Barry, 32, who is white, had been charged with murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of Deborah Danner, 66, who was black, in an incident that drew criticism from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It was one of a string of episodes at the time across the United States where police were criticized for using excessive force against black people and the mentally ill.
“Sgt. Barry committed no crime and was justified in his actions,” SBA President Ed Mullins said in the statement.
Barry entered Danner’s Bronx apartment on Oct. 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, prosecutors said.
Barry had testified that he shot her as she swung a baseball bat at him in her bedroom. Danner was hit twice through the torso.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said he was disappointed by the verdict, but said the incident still illustrates the need to improve police procedures for dealing with mentally disturbed people.
“There must be serious reforms to improve access to treatment so the situation does not rise to a crisis,” Clark said in a statement. “Mental health professionals should be part of the response to emotionally disturbed persons.”
Reporting by Peter Szekely; editing by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis