September 25, 2017

SBA Leader: Barry Case an Obvious Example of an ‘Unfair Prosecution’


Top: STANDS BY HIS TROOPS: Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins, already incensed that one of his members, Kizzy Adonis, has been on modified duty for the past 20 months in connection with the Eric Garner case, was bluntly critical of Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner James O’Neill and Bronx District Attorney Darlene Clark for actions he believes were prejudicial to Sgt. Hugh Barry after he fatally shot a woman with a long history of mental illness when she came at him with a baseball bat. ‘They should resign for what they’ve done,’ he said. Photo: The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang
Bottom left: KIZZY ADONIS: ‘Did what she was instructed to do.’
Bottom center: HUGH BARRY: Union rallying around him.
Bottom right: DEBORAH DANNER: Did she leave Barry no choice?

The Sergeants Benevolent Association has posted eight videos and several articles on its website in defense of Sgt. Hugh Barry, who was placed on modified duty and then indicted for murder after he fatally shot a schizophrenic woman who swung a baseball bat at his head.

“There’s a lot more coming,” SBA President Edward D. Mullins said in an interview Sept. 14 at the union’s Sergeants of the Year luncheon. “The Barry case is probably the best example of an unfair prosecution that I’ve ever seen.”

‘They’ll Be Embarrassed’

He continued, “When this is over, the Police Commissioner is going to be embarrassed, the Mayor is going to be embarrassed and the District Attorney is going to be embarrassed. They should resign for what they’ve done.”

Sergeant Barry, who has been with the NYPD for eight years, responded last Oct. 18 to a 911 call reporting that Deborah Danner, 66, was causing a disturbance in the hallway of her Bronx apartment building.

He found Ms. Danner armed with a pair of scissors inside a bedroom of her apart­ment. Over 10 minutes of conversation, he persuaded her to put them down. But as he tried to coax her out of the room, she grabbed the bat, which had been hidden under the bedsheets, and swung. He shot her twice.

“Sergeant Barry was within feet of Ms. Danner and would have been struck in the head with the bat if he did not fire his weapon when he did,’’ according to court papers filed in July by his attorneys in support of his request to move the trial to another jurisdiction because of what they claimed was preju­dicial publicity. “Sergeant Barry fired two shots center mass, consistent with his NYPD training.”

The day after the shooting, as Bronx elected officials complained about excessive force and community groups rallied in the streets, Police Commissioner James P. O’­Neill, who had been in his job barely a month, criticized Sergeant Barry for not using a Taser or calling specially-trained officers from the Emergency Services Unit.

Mayor Castigated Him

He placed Sergeant Barry on modified duty within 12 hours of the shooting. That afternoon, Mayor de Blasio called a press conference to say that the Sergeant had not followed police protocol and bore sole responsibility for her death.

The SBA criticized those comments at the time, saying they violated Sergeant Barry’s due-process rights. The union was angered further when Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark obtained an indictment May 31 charging him with second-degree murder.

It was the first time an NYPD officer had been char­ged with murder since 1999, when four Street Crime Unit officers killed the unarmed Amadou Diallo, mistakenly thinking he was a rape suspect with a gun. They were acquitted after the trial was moved to Albany.

‘O’Neill Never Probed’

“The Police Commissioner never did an investigation” of the Danner shooting, Mr. Mullins said.

The SBA videos have criticized Ms. Clark for decisions she previously made as a judge and for personnel shifts in her office that were supposedly politically motivated. They have charged that Mr. O’Neill disciplined Sergeant Barry even though he followed NYPD policy of not shooting electrical Taser darts into a subject’s front.

Mr. Mullins said the Danner case was another instance of lack of accountability for NYPD higher-ups and other top city officials. He said that the city’s mental-health system had failed Ms. Danner for many years and that the guidelines for the use of Tasers were problematic.

To underscore his accountability argument, he brought up the cases of Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, the patrol supervisor who was placed on modified duty after Eric Garner’s death, and reports in July about NYPD commanders whom a flight crew decided were too drunk to fly.

Sergeant Adonis responded to the Garner scene in July 2014 after Officer Dan­iel Pantaleo subdued the 400-pound petty criminal when he refused to submit to an arrest for selling untaxed “loosie” cigarettes.

Implies Scapegoating

“Kizzy Adonis has been modified for nearly three years,” Sergeant Mullins said. “To date, she’s the only one modified except for Pantaleo.”

Sergeant Adonis, who was still on probation, was placed on modified duty in January 2016 by Mr. O’Neill’s predecessor, William J. Bratton. The SBA said police contracts set an 18-month stat­ute of limitations on administrative charges

Mr. Mullins said at the time that Sergeant Adonis did not arrive on the scene until after the incident was over. “She asks her driver, who’s a certified Emergency Medical Technician, is [Mr. Garner] okay? He says yes. She confirmed that an ambulance is on the way. She did everything she was instructed to do. What more was she supposed to do, spray him with MACE?”

The city has said any action against Mr. Pantaleo is on hold while the U.S. Department of Justice completes its long-running investigation into whether he violated Mr. Garner’s civil rights.

A Staten Island grand jury considered charges against Mr. Pantaleo and declined to indict him in December 2014, setting off weeks of pro­tests by people who saw a bystander’s cell-phone video of the arrest that showed the officer grabbing Mr. Garner by the neck in order to bring him to the ground.

Chokehold Question

Many who saw the videos believed Mr. Pantaleo had used a chokehold, which is banned by the NYPD because of the danger of cutting off breathing. Mr. Pantaleo told the grand jury he did not use a chokehold, and Federal prosecutors in the civil-rights investigation reportedly could not agree on whether he did so.

“I can’t help believe that she’s a scapegoat,” Mr. Mul­lins said of Sergeant Adonis. “Did anyone ask why the police were there? Who in the Chief of Department’s Office directed the arrest?”

Press accounts have said that the Chief of Department at the time, Philip Banks III, had ordered enforcement against sidewalk cigarette sales because of pressure from local merchants.

Mr. Mullins also brought up the recent incident in which an airline crew denied boarding to two high-ranking uniformed officers, saying they were too drunk. As a result, Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters pulled all six NYPD officers off the plane.

‘Why No Investigation?’

“There was no investigation,” Mr. Mullins said. “There was no IAB [Internal Affairs Bureau] log number on that. They were on official department business. If I’m at Disney with my kids and there’s an off-duty incident, there’s an investigation.”

The NYPD and Ms. Clark’s office both declined to comment on the SBA’s complaints.